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More unicorns owned by women

More unicorn firms owned by women but women still only “minor share” of investments

Most of the world’s unicorn companies are active in the software industry, according to market research firm Statista. There was a near five-fold rise in women-owned unicorn companies – a start-up valued at more than $1 billion – from 18 in 2020 to 83 in 2021, according to World Economic Forum. But women-owned businesses still represent a “minor share” – at 2% in 2021 – of investment in businesses owned by men. 

Gender gaps are a deepening problem for economies and industry, the Forum says. It is one subject that will be key to discussions at the World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit in Geneva on May 2 – 3.

The Forum has described gender gaps in the workforce as an “emerging crisis” and the cost-of-living crisis is expected to further depress the earning potential of women.

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“If as many women as men were in work or seeking work, it could increase economic output by an average of 35%”, the Forum says.

More women are starting businesses – but they still only attract a tiny percentage of investment. Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 43% jump in businesses founded by women. Some of these were “necessity founders” driven by job scarcity during the pandemic, according to the Forum.

Women have lost significantly more working hours than men since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the second quarter of 2020, Global Gender Gap data shows.

Women’s participation in the workforce – women who are actively working or seeking work – is also at its lowest since the Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report was first published in 2006.

An analysis of 102 countries last year shows only 62.9% of women are participating in the workforce.

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Women’s share of senior and leadership roles has grown steadily since 2017 and in 2022 reached its highest score yet in the Global Gender Gap Report of 42.7%.

“However, some industries are progressing faster than others. Those nearing 50/50 gender parity include non-governmental and membership organizations (47%), education (46%), and personal services and wellbeing (45%). Industries with work still to do include energy (20%), manufacturing (19%) and infrastructure (16%).”

The Forum says: “While hiring more women at the entry level is an important component of closing gender gaps in leadership, it is not fully sufficient.”

Women are making big strides in politics. Between 2006 and 2022, the global average share of women in ministerial positions has nearly doubled from 9.9% to 16.1%, the Forum finds.

In some countries, more women than men are ministers, led by Belgium (57.1%), Nicaragua (58.8%) and Sweden (57.1%).

That said, South Asia and the Middle East, and North Africa have seen a waning share of women as heads of state since the 1970s, while North America has only had one female head of state in the past 50 years.

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