COVID-19 Has Inordinately Affected Women In Business: Report

Women across the world have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic, with a staggering 87 per cent of women business owners say they have been adversely affected, the report said

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Now in its fourth year, the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) 2020 report highlights the vast socio-economic contributions of women entrepreneurs across the world, as well as providing insight into the factors driving and inhibiting their advancement.


Through drawing on publicly available data from leading international organizations, such as the OECD and International Labour Organization — across 58 economies, representing almost 80 per cent of the female labor force. Notably, MIWE 2020's top-performing economies are prime examples that gender-specific support mechanisms can make a compelling case to advance progress for women entrepreneurs and help drive post-COVID-19 economic bounce back.

The pandemic has posed set-backs, but also opportunity

The report indicates that the pandemic could prove a catalyst for exponential progress for women in business and an opportunity to course-correct inherent gender bias. It draws on a number of points to illustrate this, notably:

The COVID-19 era presents an empowering narrative for women in leadership, providing inspiration at a time when cultural barriers and fear of failure still impede some women from business ventures. COVID-19 has highlighted women's ability to lead under extraordinary circumstances. Female world leaders such as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland have presided over some of the most successful efforts in containing COVID-19 while instilling order, assurance, trust, and calm. With almost half with 47.8 per cent of female entrepreneurs report being driven by a desire to contribute to the greater societal good, the impact these leaders have cannot be underestimated.

Women in business are already demonstrating marked adaptability, despite extensive barriers to success. On the frontline, women business owners are adapting to the new world of work with renewed confidence. 42 per cent have shifted to a digital business model and 34 per cent have identified new business opportunities since the pandemic, the report said.

The "next normal' presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remove existing barriers, driving greater gender participation and parity for women in business. As well as magnifying severalfold the many disparities women in the business face – from the digital gender gap to financial inclusion – COVID-19 has been an intense stimulus for structural progress. For example, prior to the pandemic, the financial global gender disparity had remained static for almost a decade.

However, COVID-19 has propelled progress in this area - with the UK government setting up bank accounts for over 1.2 million people in just two days at the height of the pandemic, and over 11 million informal workers in Brazil applied for saving accounts in order to receive emergency government funds.

"A crisis will always reveal vulnerabilities in the system, and COVID-19 has done that in spades. We have seen the staggering extent of the disparity women in business face. But unlike any other economic downturn, COVID-19 has also paved the way for considerable progress and we have seen what we can be achieved when priority is given. However, are we brave enough to seize the opportunity, to listen to the data outlined in MIWE 2020, and act accordingly? Or will we cling on to a failed system, and allow the pandemic to shave off progress to date," said Sue Kelsey, executive vice president, global consumer products and financial inclusion, Mastercard.

The report further notes that the implications of these observations are profound. It further demonstrates the untapped value of women as leaders and, critically, highlights the role of the pandemic in expediating progressive solutions. Leveraging this momentum and championing gender-specific initiatives will be critical to realizing women's potential and winding down the $172 trillion lost globally (World Bank) due to the differences in lifetime earnings between women and men.

"These are critical questions decisions makers need to have at the fore as they plan their road to economic recovery. Collectively, governments, financial services, and business organizations need to ensure they are offering the right support programs, solutions, and innovation to enable female entrepreneurs the opportunity to thrive in the world's new normal," Kelsey added.

The key findings beckon us to consider the cost of untapped potential in women as contributors in our lives, not just in business and society, but on the national and global scale as the key backbone to the path of recovery post-COVID.