June 4, 2013 | Economic Opportunity

Start Me Up

New report: The countries where women entrepreneurs are most likely to succeed

By Sarah J. Robbins

Let's say you're a woman entrepreneur and want your business to have a good chance to succeed. Which country should you start it in?

The U.S.A. is still your best shot. That's the result of a new report, out today [June 4] that compares women-led startups in 17 developed countries, including Germany, China, Brazil and Japan. The study, the first-ever gender focused look at high-potential entrepreneurship—or new businesses that are growing and export-oriented—was conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI) institute and sponsored by Dell.

"Just because the U.S. is most favorable doesn't mean it's the ideal, perfect situation," cautions Ruta Aidis, project director at GEDI, who announced the findings at Dell's fourth annual Dell Women's Entrepreneurship Network gathering in Istanbul, Turkey. The ratio of female to male start-ups in the U.S. is 71 to 100, for example, and women make up only 41 percent of students graduating with science degrees.

The release of the report comes one day after Dell's announcement of a new initiative, in partnership with the UN Foundation and Girl Scouts of America, to empower a million female entrepreneurs by 2015. "We have a role in helping local governments, policy makers, business organizations and universities remove obstacles to help women achieve success," said Karen Quintos, Dell's chief marketing officer and senior vice president.

In order to identify the issues of greatest concern to women entrepreneurs, GEDI crunched the numbers from many previously released reports (including from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the World Economic Forum, and the United Nations, among others). "The World Bank's data is gender blind, so issues most effecting women go unnoticed," said Aidis, underscoring the need for the research.

Some of the findings are striking: Turkey, which has seen unprecedented economic growth over the past several years and is now roiled by anti-government protests for the fifth straight day, ranked eleventh on the list. Only 29 out of 100 startups here are led by women, and according to Melek Pulatkonak, the founder of the Turkish Women's International Network, an even smaller percentage of women—9 percent—make up the country's total number of entrepreneurs.

Other surprises include Mexico's overall position at number 5, ahead of the United Kingdom, and the relatively low ranking of Japan (in twelfth place, behind Turkey) because of the low social status ascribed to female business owners: Only 29 percent of the female population believe that entrepreneurship is a good career.

The hope is to update the report annually and to expand the research sample from the initial 17 countries to reflect a larger number of women worldwide. (A report from Booz & Company released earlier this year says that as many as one billion women will enter the global economy in the next decade.) As the findings are discussed, the report will also reveal the questions about women in business that have not yet been asked, says Aidis: "Bringing together the data develops a powerful message."

The rankings: Where women-led businesses succeed

  1. USA
  2. Australia
  3. Germany 
  4. France 
  5. Mexico
  6. UK
  7. South Africa 
  8. China
  9. Malaysia
  10. Russia 
  11. Turkey
  12. Japan
  13. Morocco
  14. Brazil
  15. Egypt 
  16. India 
  17. Uganda