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Women's Entrepreneurship during the Pandemic: International Research and Challenges


The crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly affected private business. Recent research by the UN and the World Bank has shown that women entrepreneurs have been hit harder than men by the crisis: 64% vs. 52%.

Ekaterina Petrova, director of the corporate accelerator GenerationS from RVC, talks about the economic situation of women in Russia during the pandemic.

Ekaterina Petrova
Director of Corporate Accelerator GenerationS


The COVID-19 pandemic could significantly reduce women's economic opportunities, thereby further widening the gender gap, which, although not in its original form, still remains. This is stated in the June study of the World Trade Center. Why has the pandemic disproportionately affected the economic status of women? Experts bring up several reasons.

First of all, the number of women employed in social sectors, such as the service industry, retail trade, tourism, and hospitality, where personal contact is required, is significantly higher than that of men. It is these industries that have suffered the most from the self-isolation regime introduced. Secondly, in addition to the primary job, women also shoulder childcare and most household chores.

Speaking about gender and business, it should be noted that women are in a more vulnerable position in the current situation. Even if you take entrepreneurship, start-ups founded by men are more likely to receive investments from venture funds or business angels. The problem is similar to requests for loans or capital leases. Why? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question yet. By the way, the involvement of women in entrepreneurship on an equal basis with men can give global GDP an increase of about 3-6%, and the world economy — an additional $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion, as was calculated in 2019 by the analysts of the international The Boston Consulting Group.

When we talk about deadlines, tasks, and work to be done, the gender issue fades into the background. Before us is an employee, no matter a man or a woman, who must show the result. The same applies to executives. If the assigned tasks are not met, no one will say that the company should have appointed a man or a woman as a leader. Gender does not matter. Based on my practice and observations, I can say that many women with whom we have come across in one way or another can control work processes very competently, excellent managers who are appreciated and respected by their team. Of course, emotionality is sometimes typical of a woman. Still, the ability to “turn it off” where needed is a skill that must be acquired.

A Unique Path and Major Challenges

Russia, as a whole, follows the global trend. Women entrepreneurs are more likely to report negative consequences for their businesses than men (90% and 82%, respectively). This is evidenced by the study of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Russian business from NAFI. Two-thirds of women's businesses (68%) are small organizations with less than 15 employees in services, culture, sports, and event management.

At the same time, there are some profound differences. For example, the share of female managers in Russia is 4.5 times higher than the world average, as evidenced by the Deloitte study results, which analyzed 224,100 Russian companies. Thanks to many initiatives, this leadership trend has become possible to develop and support women's entrepreneurship — from various committees and communities to associations, forums, and awards. Women's Eurasian Forum, International Stevie Awards, Diversity, and Inclusion Association, which organizes the annual Woman Who Matters Forum, Cartier Women's Initiative — this is just a small list of activities aimed at unleashing the potential of women's entrepreneurship, inspiring women and showing success stories, that gender should not be a barrier in business. Research by the Opora Rossii Committee for the development of women's entrepreneurship shows that the index of women's entrepreneurial activity has been showing sustainability over the past two years.

Of course, there is still a general perception that men are better entrepreneurs than women. I think that there should be no division into men or women in entrepreneurship: there is an idea, there is a company, you are either a good leader or a bad one, your company will either take off, or it will fail, it doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman — you need to move away from gender stereotypes that are still inherent in our society. We know many successful men and women whose business is an example for many.

Women in all sectors from different countries, including those involved in entrepreneurial activities, gain more and more opportunities every year. Research shows that women are catching up with men in the business world and have an edge in some areas to become more successful than ever. And I do not want the pandemic to affect such positive dynamics because what we have now is not even the result of several years. We are talking about decades.

What's Next?

In a crisis, all entrepreneurs' problems are similar, but the approach to their solution can be absolutely different. Research on the difference in leadership style between men and women showed that female leaders were more likely to adhere to democratic views than men — 72% versus 61%. The proportion of men with an authoritarian management style is higher than the proportion of women, regardless of age.

Perhaps women will find it easier to cope with a crisis due to specific skills — research shows that women are often more verbal — they can competently and correctly formulate thoughts to convey information to the listener. By the way, it is these skills — the ability to listen, hear, and accurately share information — and help women to conduct successful negotiations.

I want to hope that the business will learn specific lessons from the current situation. And some of the processes that took decades will show the progress made very soon. Suppose you ask me how I see the business in five years. In that case, I will answer — free, without any barriers, where such a thing as “gender inequality” will cease to exist.

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