Two young women in blazers sitting and talking, women to the right is sitting with a laptop. Window in the background, looking out onto another building.

Addressing the gender gap in entrepreneurship

The Nordic countries are viewed as forerunners on gender equality and women’s labour force participation, but Nordic Innovation’s new study Female Entrepreneurship in the Nordics 2020 shows that there are far fewer women than men starting businesses in the Nordic countries and that there are clear differences in the share of women entrepreneurs across the Nordics.

The study was made to give us an overview of the current situation in the Nordic countries, and identifies obstacles for increased entrepreneurship amongst women. Trough the findings in the study, Menon Economics also suggests several measures that would remove some of the obstacles women are currently facing.

Marthe Haugland, Senior Innovation Adviser at Nordic Innovation

The share of entrepreneurs in the Nordics differ greatly

Between 4-8% of the female labour force in the Nordics is currently entrepreneurs, the same number range from 9-17% for male entrepreneurs. The country with the highest rate of women entrepreneurs is Finland at 8%.

Menon Economics has carried out the study for Nordic Innovation and the Nordic working group, and used the findings to suggest measures for stimulating women entrepreneurship in the Nordics. The following four measures could help ensure a larger share of women entrepreneurs:

  • Establish female Nordic mentoring schemes and networks
  • Increase female entrepreneurs’ access to capital
  • Remove competitive disadvantages in industries where women often operate as entrepreneurs
  • Establish a scheme for commercialization leave at universities and colleges

Download the study

The consequences of Covid-19 for women entrepreneurs

During the spring 2020, COVID-19 reached the Nordic countries, and the Nordic governments issued a series of emergency measures. In industries such as health and social work services, food and accommodation services and arts there is a higher share of women entrepreneurs which means that they are at a higher risk of facing the economic repercussions by the Covid-19 lockdown.

*Female Entrepreneurship in the Nordics 2020

Education is the only sector where over half of all entrepreneurs are women, which Menon Economics has classified as having only a medium impact from social distancing requirements.

“Even though there have been restrictions on physical presence at both schools and universities in most Nordic countries during the pandemic, education itself has not grinded to a halt.” Menon Economics states in Female Entrepreneurship in the Nordics 2020.

Kickstarting the discussion on the Nordic entrepreneurial landscape

16 June 2020 10.30 – 11.45, Nordic Innovation, Innovation Centre Iceland, Vinnova, Innovation Norway, Business Finland, Erhvervstyrelsen and Vækstfonden will together host the webinar Women entrepreneurs – Growth opportunities in the Nordics to discuss the study what we do next. We have invited a series of successful women entrepreneurs and founders who will share experiences, discuss the numbers in the study and explain what they think is needed to increase the share of women entrepreneurs in their respective countries.

Read more about the webinar and sign up now!

The study Female Entrepreneurship in the Nordics 2020 is a part of the Nordic Female Entrepreneurship initiative.


Portrait Marthe Haugland

Marthe Haugland

Senior Innovation Adviser
Marthe combines her international experience with her knowledge of business development and innovation to promote Nordic cooperation within the circular economy. She belives Nordic cooperation can drive the systemic change and give Nordic companies a competitive edge going forward.

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Portriat of Trine Moa

Trine Moa

Senior Administration Adviser
Trine has more than 14 years of experience working with strategic planning, developing and implementing methodology and tools for results management, evaluation and learning, with an innovative and solutions-oriented approach to her work.

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