A new index compares and contrasts different countries to see what aspects of the cultural and business climate are key to fostering female-led businesses, as well as ranking nations for their friendliness to female founders. 

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

Which countries are friendliest to women starting up and why?

That’s the question the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute together with Dell delved into, comparing the institutions, access to technology and capital, and entrepreneurship culture of 17 countries to see which factors were most important for women’s entrepreneurial success. The results were announced at  The Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network conference in Istanbul recently.

So what did the report find? You probably won’t be too shocked to hear that the U.S. took the top slot as the country that’s best for female founders, but the rest of the rankings (and what they reveal about nurturing women’s startup dreams) might surprise you more. Here’s the complete list:

  1. United States
  2. Australia

  3. Germany

  4. France

  5. Mexico

  6. United Kingdom

  7. South Africa

  8. China

  9. Malaysia

  10. Russia

  11. Turkey

  12. Japan

  13. Morocco

  14. Brazil

  15. Egypt

  16. India

  17. Uganda

With Mexico beating out the UK and China topping Japan, it’s clear that wealth alone isn’t enough to guarantee women’s entrepreneurial success. So what else is necessary?

Consistency in providing a variety of fundamentals is essential, the report found. “Top performing countries including the U.S. (No. 1) and Mexico (No. 5) scored consistently well across a wide range of indices, compared to low-performing countries, which were much more inconsistent. For example, India (No. 16) scored relatively high for ‘opportunity recognition,’ suggesting that the female population recognizes good opportunities for businesses where they live, but received low scores relating to ‘institutional foundations,’ indicating that the women’s ability to act on those perceived opportunities is limited,” the findings note.

“Being strong in key areas such as legal rights, education and access to finance do not automatically result in high-potential female entrepreneurship. In some countries, the business environment for success is right, but female entrepreneurship is still low,” the report also finds. In these cases, culture is often to blame. “Japan, U.K. and U.S. are all high income countries but Japan has the lowest percentage of female managers (9%) compared to U.S. (43%), leaving many women in Japan without the experience and skills to start their own businesses,” it says.

Also heartening for an organization like Women 2.0 that is dedicated to connecting women to each other: the study found female networks were also essential. “Networking with other entrepreneurs and having access to the Internet helps create opportunities for female entrepreneurs,” the report found.


Women 2.0 readers: What about these rankings most surprises you?

Jessica Stillman is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel.

Photo credit: Dell Inc. via Flickr