Small Business Economics

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 417-441

First online:

How do female entrepreneurs perform? Evidence from three developing regions

  • Elena BardasiAffiliated withPRMGE World Bank Email author 
  • , Shwetlena SabarwalAffiliated withAFTED World Bank
  • , Katherine TerrellAffiliated withUniversity of Michigan

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Using the World Bank Enterprise Survey data, we analyze performance gaps between male- and female-owned companies in three regions—Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA), Latin America (LA), and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Among our findings are significant gender gaps between male- and female-owned companies in terms of firm size, but much smaller gaps in terms of firm efficiency and growth (except in LA). Part of the reason women run smaller firms is that they tend to concentrate in sectors in which firms are smaller and less efficient (in ECA and SSA). By contrast, we find no evidence of gender discrimination in access to formal finance in any of the three regions, although in ECA women are less likely than men to seek formal finance. Finally, while female entrepreneurs receive smaller loans than their male counterparts, the returns from each dollar they receive is no lower in terms of overall sales revenue.


Entrepreneurship Gender Finance Latin America Eastern Europe and Central Asia Sub-Saharan Africa

JEL Classifications

D24 J16 L25 L26 M21 O16 O54