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A Business to Call Her Own: Identifying, Analyzing and Overcoming Constraints to Women's Small Businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean
by Jennifer Powers, Barbara Magnoni in 2010
World Region: Latin America & The Caribbean
Women’s small businesses are seen as especially critical to the social fabric of developing countries as women are more inclined to use their income for the education, health and wellbeing of their families and communities. Yet, despite women’s increased economic participation in both developed and developing countries over the last half century, women are underrepresented among business owners, and their businesses tend to be smaller and slower growing than men’s. There is small but growing body of literature exploring the factors that promote women’s entrepreneurship and the gender-specific challenges and constraints women face when starting and growing their businesses. However, this literature is largely focused on OECD countries. There is little documenting the most common and difficult challenges women entrepreneurs face in developing countries, especially in Latin America. This study provides an overview of the status of women’s businesses, focusing on microenterprises, which represent the majority of these businesses in the region. It presents key quantitative and qualitative data for six countries in Latin America: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico and Peru. Through a series of case studies, it explores the differences between men’s and women’s businesses in these countries and the main barriers women face as they start and grow their businesses. Special emphasis is given to the role of access to financial services and to how the growth and development of the microfinance industry in Latin America has supported women microentrepreneurs.