Gender norms, rule of law, and female entrepreneurship in developing countries

Oct 28, 2020, 11:17 AM

Unless you have both relatively equal gender laws and decent rule of law, female entrepreneurship is very low

Entrepreneurship across the world is highly male dominated. While the amount of subsistence entrepreneurship in developing countries leads to a slightly more equal gender balance, female entrepreneurs in these countries tend to choose sectors where other women are. In this VoxDevTalk, Nava Ashraf and Ed Glaeser discuss their work with Alexia Delfino investigating how gender norms and weak rule of law put female entrepreneurs at a disadvantage. Fear of expropriation by men leads them to work in less profitable industries, such as tailoring or food production, where they can collaborate with other women rather than with men. A survey of the manufacturing sector in Zambia, for example, revealed that almost all of the gap in earnings between male and female entrepreneurs could be explained by female entrepreneurs entering low-paid industries. Relatively equal gender norms that increase women’s bargaining power and decent rule of law for contract enforcement can encourage more women to become entrepreneurs and to branch out to more profitable industries.