The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women around the world – a staggering 87% of women business owners say they have been affected by the negative impacts. High representation in the sectors hardest hit by the economic crisis, a pronounced digital divide between the sexes in an increasingly virtual world and growing pressures of responsibility for caring for children are just some of the factors that have made women particularly vulnerable.
In addressing this pronounced inequality and fulfilling the full potential of women in business, the results of the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurship (MIWE) 2020 represent a compelling reason to target the construction of the best gender-specific policies internationally.
Gender-targeted policies drive the success of women’s entrepreneurship
For the fourth year in a row, MIWE highlights the enormous socio-economic contribution of women entrepreneurship around the world, and also provides insight into the factors that drive and hinder their progress. Through a single methodology – relying on publicly available data from leading international organizations such as the OECD and the International Labor Organization – MIWE 2020 forms a global ranking of women’s progress in pre-pandemic business in 58 economies, representing almost 80% of the female workforce.
The top-ranked country in the MIWE 2020 study is the best example of gender-specific support mechanisms that deliver fast and meaningful results. For the first time in the history of MIWE research, Israel is at the top of the list of the best countries in the world for women entrepreneurs, advancing from 4th place in 2019. With the ambition to double the number of women entrepreneurs within two years, Israel’s success is driven by focused institutional support for small and medium-sized enterprises – their “Support to small and medium-sized enterprises” catapulted from 42nd place in 2019 to 1st in 2020. Similarly, Switzerland advanced from 11th place in 2019 to 3rd overall in 2020, which was driven by a sharp improvement in government support for SMEs (an increase of 37% compared to 2019) and the resulting growth in cultural perceptions of entrepreneurship (an increase of 45% compared to 2019).
Covid-19 brought obstacles, but it also created opportunities
MIWE 2020 also provides an initial analysis of the implications of Covid-19 for business women and presents effective support policies. Although they vary from country to country, those that prove most effective include expansive aid measures for small and medium-sized enterprises – from wage subsidies, exemption or deferral programs, business interest rate and margin restraints to government liquidity subsidies, as well as government child care support programs.
Most importantly, the report gives an optimistic outlook for the future of women entrepreneurs. It suggests that a pandemic could be a catalyst for women’s exponential progress in business as well as an opportunity to correct present bias by decision makers through gender-specific initiatives and support.
The report notes that the implications of these observations are profound. It further demonstrates the untapped value of women as leaders and, critically, emphasizes the role of the pandemic in accelerating progressive solutions. Harnessing this driving force and advocating for gender-specific initiatives will be crucial to realizing women’s potential and gradually reducing global losses of $ 172 trillion (according to the World Bank) due to differences in earnings between women and men throughout their working lives.
Mastercard’s commitment to accelerating inclusion
Jelena Ristić, director for Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina markets at Mastercard, said: “The crisis will always reveal vulnerabilities in the system, and Covid-19 has done so to a large extent. We have seen the staggering extent of inequality that women face at work. But unlike any other economic downturn, Covid-19 has also paved the way for significant progress and we have seen what we can achieve when priorities are set. However, are we brave enough to seize the opportunity, accept the data underlined in MIWE 2020 and act accordingly? Or will we stick to a failed system and allow the pandemic to diminish progress so far? These are crucial issues that decision-makers must have in the forefront as they plan their path to economic recovery.”
Through the MIWE study, Mastercard is committed to providing background information that enables governments, companies and individuals to take crucial steps in implementing targeted gender-specific support that would result in greater gender equality in the business world. This annual report provides an additional component to the broader mission of working to improve the status of the excluded and vulnerable. In 2020, Mastercard expanded its commitment to establishing financial inclusion worldwide, promising to bring a total of one billion people and 50 million micro and small companies into the digital economy by 2025. As part of this effort, the direct focus will be on providing solutions for 25 million women entrepreneurs who can help them grow their businesses through a series of initiatives for cross-funding, mentoring and the development of inclusive technologies. Download the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurship 2020 report and accompanying material here. Read more about the Mastercard Index efforts to engage, enable and empower women here.