HR & EDUCATION, MARKETS & INVESTING | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Growth of Singapore's women start up founders slowed down to 22%

They are weighed down by their protracted challenges in achieving work-life balance.

The rate of Singapore’s women entrepreneurs doing startup activity went down to 22%, indicating a widening gender divide in the country, the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) 2018 revealed. However, Singapore is still one of the top countries for women to do business as it ranked fifth overall in the index.

According to the report, Singapore’s rank dropped from third to fifth as its index score of 71.2 in 2017 fell 3% to 69.2 in 2018. It is the highest-ranking Asian country in the index, followed by the Philippines (68.0).

The study noted that Singapore was weighed down by a drop in the proportion of female entrepreneurs compared to male (Singapore: 61.9% to 48.3%). “Women in Singapore continue to be weighed down by their protracted challenges in achieving work-life balance,” it added.

New Zealand (74.2), Sweden (71.3), Canada (70.9), and the United States (70.8) topped the rankings. “These markets usually have the least degree of gender bias in access to business, academic, economic and financial opportunities and resources,” Mastercard said. “Markets with high Index scores generally offer the most conducive and supportive conditions that not only drive women’s inclination towards entrepreneurship but also their capacity to nurture and grow their business start-ups.”

In Singapore, 27% of business owners are women. The figure is not enough to put it in the global top 10, which was filled by countries like Ghana (46.4%), Russia (34.6%), Uganda (33.8%), and New Zealand (33%). Moreover, it did not change from 2017’s figure of 27%. Singapore slipped two places from 12th to 14th in the study’s women business owners component.

Women entrepreneurs in Singapore have also not progressed much, the study revealed, as their rankings in the advancement outcomes component fell eight places to 39th with a score of 49.4 (-6%). The study cited reasons such as the less healthy representation of women business owners in Singapore, along with Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and low entrepreneurial activity rate.

However, women in Singapore topped the rankings (90.9) in terms of knowledge assets & financial access. “In the leading markets of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Portugal, Spain, Canada, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Belgium, Denmark and Vietnam – most of which are high-income except Vietnam – conducive conditions supportive of SMEs, women’s financial inclusion and women’s tertiary education Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) appear to be the driving forces behind women’s advancement in business ownership (ranging from 25% to 33%).”

Singapore also offers one of the most favourable conditions to drive women business ownership such as ease of doing business and cultural perceptions of women as entrepreneurs. It stood beside markets such as New Zealand (1st), Denmark (3rd), and Sweden (4th).

Mastercard noted that the majority of wealthy economies render the most propitious conditions and enabling factors for entrepreneurship, whilst less wealthy economies tend to present more constraints. “This likely stems from the fact that high-income economies such as New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark and Canada tend to be highly innovative and developed where women have greater opportunities and access to better quality of education, financial facilities, effective rules of law and governance and supporting conditions for businesses,” it added. 

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