You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

6 Global Trends Reveal How Women Are Redefining Entrepreneurship Females are unlocking massive opportunities for business expansion.

By Devishobha Chandramouli

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Westend61 | Getty Images

Tiny specks form a massive ocean. The adage couldn't be better represented than the scenario in the small and medium business sector today. In 2016, nearly 98 percent of all importers in the U.S. were small and medium-sized companies with fewer than 500 employees, and the percentage of exporters was only marginally lower at 97 percent, according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. An estimated $556.2 billion in goods were traded with 15 foreign countries by early 2016, with about 96 percent of the SME consumers living outside the U.S.

Most women-owned businesses are SMEs, yet women-owned firms seem to be lagging in tapping their vast foreign consumer base. Despite studies showing that women-owned businesses that engage in the export of their goods and services earn exponentially higher than women-owned firms that do not, only 12 percent of businesses that export are owned by women.

Related: The Woman CEO Who Changed My Life -- and the Lessons She Taught Me About Business Success

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor(GEM) Report for Women 2016/17 reports that 274 million women were already running their own businesses across 74 economies, of which 111 million were running well-established businesses by 2016.

As globalization is breaking down the barriers that limited businesses by cultures, gender and geography, many partnership and trade agreements have been developed in an attempt to encourage global economic activity among women. Women are known to give back about 90 percent of their earnings to the health and education of their communities and families, contributing to development directly, so it's easy to see why it is critical.

Understanding women's entrepreneurial attitudes, trends and activity from all over the globe will help shape government policies at various levels along with the numerous educational and training programs aimed at improving the business environment for women.

Here are some interesting findings -- and paradoxes -- from the GEM Women report:

1. Developing economies see a higher male-female parity among entrepreneurs than developed economies.

Asia and Latin America showed the highest parity between male and female entrepreneurs, resulting in higher Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) in factor-driven economies. Economies at the innovation-driven stage of development saw women start businesses at 60 percent the rate of men -- a surprisingly sharp decline from factor-driven economies. Despite the advantage of technology in a typical innovation economy, fewer women were inclined towards entrepreneurship.

2. More women than men cite opportunity motives for business.

More women than men, about 20 percent more, cite opportunity as the primary reason for venturing into business even in factor-driven economies. This only becomes more pronounced in the innovation-driven group, where women are three and a half times more likely to cite opportunity motives rather than necessity motives.

The increased opportunity perception is associated with the higher TEA. Also, the report shows that women entrepreneurs have a 5 percent greater likelihood of innovativeness than men across all 74 economies.

Related: Danica Patrick Spent Years Preparing to Retire -- by Laying the Groundwork for a New Career

3. More women than men never start their business.

Though the number of women who aspire to start their businesses is closer to the number of men, the gap widens among business-owners, indicating that women are less likely to start their business and also more likely to exit at early stages or between phases of transition (4 out of 10 in factor-driven economies). This trend slightly improves in innovation-driven economies where there are two exits for every 10 businesses owned by women.

Business discontinuance among women is associated with lower growth expectations and dealing with their expected roles as primary caregivers for their families.

4. Women gravitate towards community-driven initiatives.

In the developed economies, more than half of women-led businesses are seen to be clustered around government, health, education and social services. The report shows that women are geared towards sectors typically dependent on human capital -- possibly due to women's inherently greater emotional appeal.

5. Entrepreneurial activity declines as economic development increases.

Surprisingly, entrepreneurial activity among women showed a decline when economic development improved, resulting in a wider gender gap.

While developing countries showed higher entrepreneurial activity, fewer enterprises were likely to transition to a mature stage. Innovation-driven economies were seen to be more conducive for sustainable businesses but registered slower growth than men-owned businesses. Interestingly, women in innovation-driven economies displayed a less favorable view of their own capabilities than women in developing economies.

Laurel Delaney, founder of Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global and author of the bestselling book "Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably," says "Even in a developed economy, women business owners are less likely to explore and expand their products or services because they think they can't do it, or that they don't have access to the right training, education, advisory networks, mentorships and community programs. This perceived deficiency makes it difficult for women to access markets, conduct marketing and establish relationships."

Related: A Day in the Life of Jen Gotch, the Female Badass Behind the Multimillion-Dollar Company

6. Entrepreneurial activity declines as education level increases.

Entrepreneurial participation was seen to decline with an increase in the level of education, suggesting that general education is less relevant for building entrepreneurial skills or competencies.

This fact is demonstrated by the emergence of entrepreneurial activities in the most unexpected of places. A refugee camp in South Sudan was found to be flourishing with micro-enterprises and small businesses, mostly led by women. Technology, the massive gamechanger is crushing barriers between geographies and cultures, and unifying businesses with the perfect customer to get them hooked without prohibitive costs.

"A global mindset starts with self-awareness, reflects an authentic openness to and engagement with the world, and employs a heightened awareness to the sensitivity of cross-cultural differences," noted Delaney.

Devishobha Chandramouli

Founder and Editor

Devishobha Chandramouli is the founder of Kidskintha, a global parenting and education collective. She is also the host of UNESCO's upcoming Special Kids Global Virtual Summit. She has written for HuffPost, LifeHack, Motherly, Thought Catalog, and more.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Side Hustle

This Dad Started a Side Hustle to Save for His Daughter's College Fund — Then It Earned $1 Million and Caught Apple's Attention

In 2015, Greg Kerr, now owner of Alchemy Merch, was working as musician when he noticed a lucrative opportunity.

Business News

Yes, You Can Buy a Foldable Tiny Home on Amazon — And Now It's Selling for Less Than $12,000

The waterproof and flameproof house was listed around $35,000 a few months ago.

Business News

This One Word Is a Giveaway That You Used ChatGPT to Write an Email, According to an Expert

"Delve" has increased its presence in written work since ChatGPT entered the scene.

Starting a Business

4 Common Mistakes That Will Spell Doom Your Ecommerce Business

It's hard to spot a success story before it happens, yet it's easy to tell if a business will struggle. With that in mind, here are the four most common mistakes people make that you should avoid when starting an ecommerce business.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

This Futuristic Wearable Smartphone Alternative Projects a Screen on Your Palm — And It's Now Widely Available

Humane's Ai Pin fastens magnetically to clothing and becomes a voice-activated AI assistant that can make calls, send texts, take notes, and find answers to complex questions.