Female Founders Report 2021: Only a few women found companies - but if they do, they do so successfully

The proportion of women among start-up founders is still very low. The reasons for this are manifold, although female founders actually create more jobs than men. An insight into the Female Founders Report 2021 by Startbase.

Be it Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk - most popular founders are male. If you're looking for a flagship female founder, you'll have to dig deeper. Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of underwear manufacturer Spanx is certainly one of them, as is Arianna Huffington, media entrepreneur and founder of the proto-internet newspaper Huffington Post.

What is hinted at at the top becomes even more apparent across the board: women are less likely than men to start a business. The Female Founders Report by Startbase now shows this for Germany in frightening clarity. Last year, only 11.9 percent of all start-up founders in Germany were female. That is even less than in the overall economy, where the figure is still 17.9 percent.

The figures in individual sectors are even more sobering. In the finance and insurance sector 7.2 percent of the founders are women, in the ITC sector 6 percent. The clearest male domain is the security sector with a share of women of 1.7 percent. The only sector that is really noticeably above average is textiles, where 26.7 percent of founders are women.

Even when women set up a business, they are less likely to found one together with other women than with men. Only 16 percent of female founders rely on a female team, while 50.5 percent bring men on board (the remaining 33.5 percent are solo founders).

It is by no means the case that women are less successful when they start up. The economic benefits may even be higher when women start up, at least that's what some figures from the Female Founders Report suggest. All-female teams create an average of 23 jobs per female founder. That puts them ahead of all-male teams, where the figure is just 17 jobs per founder.

So the reasons for the disparity tend to lie elsewhere. One aspect that is clear from the data: Women, even when they start up, get significantly less attention. This can be seen, for example, in the mentions in start-up media: Even when you factor out the size of the startup - large startups are mentioned more often than small ones - male teams of founders and also mixed teams have more space in the media than all-female teams.

Of course, there are many other aspects at play besides coverage. For example, prominent female founders such as Michelle Skodowski of Botfriends and Stefanie Langner of Leankoala complain about subconscious bias among investors.

It's a problem that policymakers have also recognized. "The opportunity to start a business should be one of the options for girls in particular for their own career paths," emphasizes the Federal Digitization Commissioner Dorothee Bär in her welcoming speech to the Female Founders Report: "We should make sure of that."

"What is unfortunately still serious is that male investor teams tend to invest in male start-ups," meanwhile Bettina Stark-Watzinger complains. She is parliamentary director of the FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag. Her areas of interest also include the German start-up scene and how it deals with diversity. "Here, public institutions in particular, such as KfW Capital, are also called upon to increase the female share among investors," she demands: "This can be done through mentoring programs or by poaching successful women from other professions in the financial industry."

Stark-Watzinger sees the ball in politics: "By not giving female talents enough of a chance, we as an economy are missing out on great opportunities, especially now in the crisis." Ingrained role models would have to be dismantled already in school, for example in a school subject economics. "Those who have basic knowledge of our economic system and entrepreneurship also gain the courage to start up their own businesses," Stark-Watzinger said.

(Photo: Startbase)

Female Founders Week 2021

This article is part of our special on female entrepreneurship in Germany.

Want to learn more? Download the entire Female Founders Report 2021 here


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