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By now, most people are familiar with the gender wage gap which sees women, predominantly those of color, being paid less on average than their white male peers. Less discussed, however, are the discriminatory gender gaps in the business world that extend well beyond salary differences.

Take, for example, the entrepreneur gender gap.

When it comes to starting a business, women face a unique set of challenges. They must jump through seemingly infinite hoops for resources which are readily provided to men. In particular, it can be grueling to secure investment funding and a network of mentors to help guide them through the early days of launching their business.

The benefits of encouraging more women to fight against the entrepreneur gender gap are clear, and yet progress remains slow. To say that the business world—a domain designed by men for men—is unwelcoming to women in leadership positions would be putting it lightly. So how can we bridge the entrepreneur gender gap to ensure equity for all hopeful startup founders moving forward?

In this discussion from the 2019 G1 Global Conference, Kathy Matsui and Maiko Todoroki discuss what changes are needed to encourage more female entrepreneurs both in Japan and abroad.

“Studies show that over a medium-term, five-to-ten-year time horizon, the female-owned businesses actually outperform the male ones.”

Kathy Matsui

Closing the Entrepreneur Gender Gap in Japan and the World


Kathy Matsui:

There has been a lot of work done in looking at the (what I call) “gender gap in entrepreneurship” around the world. And I believe their analysis suggests that if you could close this gap, you could actually boost global GDP—the size of the entire world’s economy—by as much as 5 trillion US dollars. Five trillion US dollars, by the way, is the size of one Japan. So this is not small or insignificant. So the prize is very attractive if we can work to close this gap.

What, however is the reality? The reality is, as many of you know, that in the world, it’s still very difficult for a lot of female entrepreneurs to get access, for instance, to capital, to money. The average female-founded startup can raise on average about $935,000 to start up her company, versus $2.1 million for the average male startup. This is despite the fact that—again, studies show that over a medium-term, five-to-ten-year time horizon, the female-owned businesses actually outperform the male ones.

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Lean In! Why Japan Needs More Women Leaders

Wherever I go, Japan gets criticized for failing to empower women and having too few women leaders.

We’ve done some work at Goldman, looking at some of the obstacles that women entrepreneurs face. They range from access to capital, of course, but we also find—I think maybe more than men—the lack of a robust network or a community. People you can lean on for everything from technical expertise to advice. “Am I doing something crazy? Give me some feedback.” I think women have much less support networks than men do. I think that’s an area that maybe we want to discuss here in Japan.

And of course, just knowledge of HR issues. Like, how do you hire? How do you find the good people? How do you get rid of bad people? I think you can be a visionary and have a brilliant idea for a startup, but you do need some of this technical expertise as well.

Maiko Todoroki:

What’s lacking, then? What can we do to promote those women going into entrepreneurship or contributing to society? I think, unfortunately, there still continues to be a lack of support systems in Japan.

So the government is making an effort, trying to make sure that we offer basic services to working parents, but it’s just not enough.

And there’s just not enough variety. We need to make sure that there’s a selection of different childcare, different senior care, so that there’s a right choice for everybody. Not just for full-time workers, not just for part-time workers, not just for freelancers, but also for entrepreneurs.


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