Mastercard Releases Index of Women Entrepreneurs

While female entrepreneurship is often founded on necessity and grit, strong supporting conditions such as access to financial services and ease of doing business pave the way for progress in businesses owned by women, according to findings from the inaugural Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs. Mastercard is No. 7 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list.


These enabling conditions are pivotal in overcoming the two main obstacles that most discourage women from becoming entrepreneurs cultural biases and fewer opportunities for their advancement.

Overall, developed markets top the index, led by New Zealand, Canada and the United States. These countries have the strongest conditions that support women business ownership, such as robust small- and mid-sized business communities, a high quality of governance and ease of doing business.

Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs Top 10 markets with the strongest supporting conditions and opportunities for women to thrive as entrepreneurs

  1. New Zealand 74.4
  2. Canada 72.4
  3. United States 69.9
  4. Sweden 69.6
  5. Singapore 69.5
  6. Belgium 69.0
  7. Australia 68.5
  8. Philippines 68.4
  9. United Kingdom 67.9
  10. Thailand 67.5

On the other hand, lower-income economies such as Uganda (34.8 percent), Bangladesh (31.6 percent) and Vietnam (31.4 percent) have some of the highest percentages of women entrepreneurs, driven mostly by necessity as opposed to being inspired by business opportunities.

Women business owners as a % of all business owners Top 10 markets

  1. Uganda 34.8 percent
  2. Botswana 34.6 percent
  3. New Zealand 33.3 percent
  4. Russia 32.6 percent
  5. Austria 32.4 percent
  6. Bangladesh 31.6 percent
  7. Vietnam 31.4 percent
  8. China 30.9 percent
  9. Spain 30.8 percent
  10. United States 30.7 percent

“The prevalence of ambitious, resourceful women should be regarded as a prime business opportunity. As society addresses existing cultural bias, we will do our part to help create those conditions that will strengthen and fuel the foundation for personal and economic growth,” said Martina Hund-Mejean, chief financial officer, Mastercard.

“By increasing access to critical networks, our study shows that women are more able to recognize their full potential, achieve their goals and ultimately accelerate more inclusive growth. We have a fantastic opportunity to address cultural and organizational issues and further empower women leaders,” said Ann Cairns, president, International Markets, Mastercard.

The Index suggests that countries with enabling conditions foster more Opportunity-Driven Entrepreneurs (driven by desire to progress) while countries with less conducive supporting conditions tend to breed more Necessity-Driven Entrepreneurs (driven by need to survive). It also explores varying factors that help or hinder women entrepreneurs.

  • What spurs female entrepreneurship in developing markets Grit. Uganda (34.8 percent), Bangladesh (31.6 percent), Vietnam (31.4 percent) and China (30.9 percent) made the list of the top ten markets for proportion of women business owners as a percentage of total business owners. In these economies, women capitalize on business opportunities that do not rely on knowledge or innovation assets alone.
  • However, successful businesses do not survive on grit alone. To help women entrepreneurs thrive, they need access to financial services and products; ease of doing business; strong support for SMEs and quality governance, as seen in New Zealand, Canada, United States, Sweden and Singapore, which took the top five spots on the Index.
  • There are other markets such as the Philippines (68.4, 8th), Peru (64.3, 23rd), Malaysia (63.9, 25th), China (61.3, 31st) and Mexico (59.1, 40th) where supporting conditions for entrepreneurs are not as conducive, yet the local entrepreneurship landscape is highly energized and vibrant with very healthy perception of business opportunities and high regard for the status of successful entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs here are often driven by strong desires to succeed.
  • The low scores of markets such as India (41.7, 49th), Saudi Arabia (37.2, 52nd) and Egypt (34.0, 53rd) are indicative of the fact that cultural biases against women severely undermine their ability to rise to positions of leadership and take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • According to the Index, some of the biggest obstacles that hinder women from venturing into business include lack of financial funding/venture capital, regulatory restrictions and institutional inefficiencies, lack of self-belief and entrepreneurial drive, fear of failure, socio-cultural restrictions, and lack of training and education. In nearly all of the 54 economies covered, at least one or more of these constraints are holding back the progress of women as business owners.

The full report is available at newsroom.mastercard.com.

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