Overrepresentation in sectors hardest hit by the economic downturn (tourism, retail, hospitality etc), the pronounced digital gender gap in an increasingly virtual world, and the mounting pressures of childcare responsibilities are only a few factors that have left women particularly vulnerable, according to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE).
This year’s MIWE includes a global ranking on the advancement of women in business in pre-pandemic conditions across 58 economies, representing almost 80 per cent of the female labour force.
Australia retained its top 10 ranking in the 2020 report (ninth), while placing second in the Asia-Pacific region for economic equality. According to the research, approximately three in every 10 businesses in Australia are now female owned (30.6 per cent).
The survey noted that last year’s strong performers, the United States and New Zealand — although dropping from first to second, and second to fourth places, respectively — demonstrate that economies with mature, gender-focused initiatives still outperform on the global stage through continued focus on advancing conditions for women in business.
It found that in both these economies, favourable cultural perceptions of entrepreneurism, the high visibility of female leaders that serve as role models for aspiring entrepreneurs, and supportive entrepreneurial conditions play a crucial role in their success.
“What the findings make clear is that regardless of an economy’s wealth, level of development, size and geographic location, gender inequalities continue to persist — even pre-pandemic. What COVID-19 did is that it exacerbated an already problematic situation,” said Julienne Loh, executive vice-president, enterprise partnerships, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.
“It disproportionately disrupted women’s lives and livelihoods to a greater extent than men due to a few pre-existing factors: the jobs and sectors women tend to work in, childcare and domestic responsibilities, and the pre-existing gender disparity in business.”