The Obstacles to Women’s Entrepreneurship in Europe, and How to Deal with Them

By Viviane de Beaufort

An increasing number of women are interested in creating their own business – yet even in the 21st century, there are still obsactles that face them. Viviane de Beaufort distinguishes between the different types of women wishing to create their own business and analyses the support and training that the different categories of women would need.

There is an increasing number of women interested in creating their own business. The motivations that spur European women to become entrepreneurs are increasingly stronger. It appears that women have specific reasons for starting their own projects: sometimes it is to create an employment opportunity for themselves (let’s keep in mind that women’s unemployment rate is still higher than men’s) ; sometimes it is a way to move on in their career and/or to gain independence; often it is also about juggling between their professional and family life, as women are still seen as the ones responsible for taking care of the home.


Female entrepreneurship in Europe is a genuinely dynamic force, but obstacles remain creating a “glass ceiling.” It is important to identify and fight against these obstacles to liberate the potential economic contribution that female entrepreneurs could make within Europe. A study on female entrepreneurship in Europe was carried out in 2007 and then updated in 2011 to try to clarify which specific barriers to success were remaining. Adopting a clear gender approach, the survey has shown that obstacles are both of external and internal dimensions.

The gender gap in entrepreneurship is defined in terms of a statistical pattern showing differences in the prevalence of entrepreneurial activities between men and women. The reasons for the gender gap can be traced back to the general gender differences in society, where starting a business is culturally defined as a masculine activity. Moreover, the expectations on entrepreneurship from policymakers emphasize high-tech, high-growth, individualist ventures – i.e. traditional masculine ways of ‘doing entrepreneurship.’ The entrepreneurial gap between men and women is defined as the difference between male and female-run firms divided by the total number of firms. Year after year, the difference in Europe remains, even in the countries most advanced in gender issues such as Sweden, where the prevalence of entrepreneurial start up activities are 5.78% among men and 2.47% among women! Why this difference?

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