Work Life

How are female entrepreneurs performing in Europe?


Women make up 52% of the European population – but just 34.4% of self-employed workers are women and 14% of start-ups are headed by female entrepreneurs.

While the statistics are worrying, the issue of the gender gap among entrepreneurs  is something that’s high up on the priority list of major European Union institutions. According to the European Institute of Innovation & Technology ‘women are the largest untapped entrepreneurial and leadership potential in Europe’.

These sentiments are echoed by vice-presidents of the European Investment Bank.

According to three female VPs at the EIB, supporting female entrepreneurs is not just about ‘ethics’ and doing the ‘right’ thing but about the European economy as a whole. The world’s largest multilateral financial institution is clear that despite receiving less than half of the investment capital of their male peers, companies founded by female entrepreneurs ‘deliver twice as much revenue per dollar invested’.

Here are some more stats from the EIB:

  • European firms with strong female representation are 28% more likely to outperform their peers
  • European firms with gender-diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to outperform their peers
  • Female entrepreneurs in Europe pulled just 1% of venture capital investment in 2021
  • The rate of entrepreneurial activity among European women is just 5.7% – compared to the world’s average of 11%
  • Most female entrepreneurs in Europe rely on their own savings and family contributions to start a business, with male entrepreneurs three times more likely to approach banks for support
  • When the European Innovation Council invited more women to pitch their businesses and increased the number of female juries to 50%, the percentage of female-led startups receiving Accelerator funding jumped from 8% to 29%

The WEgate network set up by the EU to boost women’s entrepreneurship also identified finances among the top three challenges facing female entrepreneurs in 2021.

Specifically, a ‘difficulty securing finance’ was the top problem followed by ‘limited business contacts’ and then ‘difficulty obtaining support from state enterprise agencies’.

Data from however found that 2021 was a breakout year for female exits over €20m – with over 23 registered to the collective tune of over €9 billion. Sifted found that female-led exits were predominantly in the fields of health (24%), fintech (12%), media (10%), food (8%) and enterprise software (8%).

Nevertheless, due to aforementioned problems of securing initial finance to get their start-ups and companies off the ground, female-led exits accounted for just 3.8% of all European exists of business founded after 2000.


The MumAbroad network for female entrepreneurs in Europe

MumAbroad actively supports female entrepreneurs in key local communities in Spain, Italy, France and Germany – countries with the largest economies in the EU.

We strive to provide a platform for female entrepreneurs in Europe, especially for women who may have been out of the workplace due to family commitments and are trying to establish themselves again.

MumAbroad is the go-to platform for female entrepreneurs in each of our countries, with regular and relevant content and a thriving community on social media. Our Women in Business pages give a platform for solopreneurs, mumpreneurs, women working in start-ups, as directors or CEOs in Spain, Germany, France and Italy.

Contact us as if you’d like to inquire about our services and have your female-led business listed on our country-specific pages.


Women in Business in Spain

Women make up 36.6% of the 3.3 million self-employed workers (autónomos) in Spain – meaning there are now more than 1.2 million women in Spain running their own small to medium-size business.

In 2021, women accounted for 59.6% of the 55,711 newly inscribed self-employed workforce in Spain.

The most recent Mapa report from 2020 discovered that 18% of new companies were founded by women, while 41% of all start-ups have at least one female entrepreneur among their founding members. This is higher than the European average at 36%.

Find out more about women in business in Spain.


Women in Business in Germany

The most recent EU figures show that female self-employed workers in Germany represent 43% of the total.

The proportion drops among self-employed workers with employees – here, women made up just 24% of the total.

The German government has identified a problem in that fewer German women work in full-time employed work compared to European peers. However, changing government policies and German culture in general has evolved in recent years to encourage gender equality in the workplace, co-parenting in families and supporting women in online-based businesses.

Find out more about women in business in Germany.


Women in Business in France

Most recent figures in France show that women made up just 25% of self-employed workers.

France witnessed a strong decline in people running their own businesses – both men and women – due to progression towards a wage-based society in the early 2000s. In 2005, self-employment accounted for less than 4% of all jobs held by women in France.

According to data from the World Bank, this figure rose to 8.7% by 2019 thanks to more favourable policies.

Read more about women in business in France.


Women in Business in Italy

Italy is unique in that its three largest startup hubs – Rome, Milan and Turin – account for just 30% of the country’s entrepreneurial companies.

Italy is home to many small, innovative and dynamic startups and small to medium-size businesses, with opportunities throughout the country’s regions.

Proactive policies in Italy are turning around the history of low employment rates among women – in 2007, the employment rate for women in Italy was just 47%.

Changes to Italian law – including the Affirmative Action for Female Entrepreneurship act – created a committee for women’s entrepreneurship that gave support, grants, loans, training, mentoring, events and legal assistance to business with at least 60% female members.

By 2011, the participation of Italian women in self-employment was higher than the EU average.

Read more about women in business in Italy.