Women entrepreneurs are just as likely as men to seek out new opportunities, take risks and network with other entrepreneurs – yet nevertheless find themselves lagging behind their male counterparts when it comes to entrepreneurial activity.
The study of more than 100,000 people in 35 countries by The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor has found that, while women entrepreneurs often exhibit patterns of behaviour similar to those of men, a gender gap nonetheless exists for entrepreneurial activity across the globe.
Women most likely to be entrepreneurs were those who held jobs, had higher levels of household income and education, and had confidence in their level of skill and in the possibility of their success.
Women's businesses in high-income countries were just as likely to survive and thrive as men's.
But it was a different story in the middle-income cluster where the survival rate was significantly lower than that of a man's business.
Also, young women (25 to 34) were more active in "early-stage" enterprises in middle-income countries, while women aged 35-44 were the most likely to lead "established" businesses.
Overall, on average, men remained nearly twice as likely as women to start a new business.
In high-income countries, the gender gap was greatest, while in middle-income countries it narrowed somewhat.
Maria Minniti, associate professor of economics and entrepreneurship at Babson College and lead researcher on the report, said, "What we see in middle-income countries is that the gender gap in entrepreneurial activity actually narrows.
"When you connect this to the higher level of necessity entrepreneurship by all entrepreneurs in middle-income countries, it's not hard to believe that the gap narrows because there is less opportunity for men, rather than because women have achieved greater parity," she added.
Co-author Nan Langowitz, director of the Center for Women's Leadership at Babson, added: "There's a clear message that being in the workplace not only helps women achieve greater personal income but also gives them access to the resources, ideas, and social capital that enable entrepreneurial activity."