Donna Kelley is a professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College, and holds the Frederic C. Hamilton Chair of Free Enterprise. She is a frequent presenter on the topic of global entrepreneurship for executive, policy and academic audiences around the world and is a board member of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association (GERA), the oversight board of GEM, and leader of the GEM US team. Donna has co-authored GEM reports on global entrepreneurship, women’s entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship education and training, and entrepreneurship in the US, Korea, and Africa.
“…women entrepreneurs … tend to dominate entrepreneurial activity in the government, social, education and health sectors, which demonstrates their contribution to value creation in key areas of society…”
From martial arts to managing business growth
My entrepreneurial experience includes starting a health club / martial arts studio and a Chinese immersion charter school, as well as being on the founding management team of a computer data storage start up, the latter of which stirred my interest in researching entrepreneurship.
After receiving my Ph.D. at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2000, I joined Babson and have taught a variety of courses in entrepreneurship, managing the growth phase, corporate entrepreneurship and other related topics. My research has looked at corporate innovation, entrepreneurship in Asia, and for the past ten years, I have been involved in GEM [the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor] as a member of the global board of directors and leader of the US team.
I’m involved in such a variety of things that it’s hard to identify what a typical day is like. I may be teaching entrepreneurship in China, working with our Babson Global subsidiary to help start a university in Saudi Arabia, working on academic research based on GEM data, or writing a GEM report.
More about GEM, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor
GEM is a global consortium of academic teams in each participating economy. Each year, these teams – a total of over 400 researchers from over 60 economies – conduct a random, representative survey of at least 2,000 working-age adults in their economies.
The result is a comprehensive and detailed account of entrepreneurship around the world. This includes comparisons of entrepreneurship across multiple phases and types of business activity, demographic characteristics of entrepreneurs, and the characteristics of and expectations they have for their businesses.
A key aim of the United States Global Entrepreneurship Monitor is to provide a broad audience – educators, researchers, policy makers, practitioners – with information and analysis that can enhance understanding, decision making and actions with regard to entrepreneurship.
Female entrepreneurial activity
The 74 economies examined in the 2016/17 Women’s Entrepreneurship report show substantial differences in women’s TEA [total early-stage entrepreneurial activity] rates, ranging from 3% in Germany, Jordan, Italy and France to 37% in Senegal. Among 63 economies (out of 74) featured in this report and the previous one issued two years ago, overall female TEA rates have increased by 10% and the gender gap (ratio of women to men participating in entrepreneurship) has narrowed by 5%.
Intentions to start a business in the next three years range from 4% in Norway to 73% in Senegal. Across the 63 economies participating in this and the previous report, entrepreneurial intentions increased among women by 16% from 2014 to 2016. Generally, intentions are higher than TEA levels, reflecting the fact that people will have good intentions, but these will not necessarily translate into action. This could be a concern to the extent this is due to constraints of some sort (for example, social / cultural impediments, gender differences in access to finance).
Perceptions of capabilities affect confidence
Capabilities perceptions can reflect one’s confidence in starting a business, as well as one’s experience and training. An interesting result is that, beyond the earliest stage of economic development (factor-driven economies), women entrepreneurs are as likely as men, or more likely than men, to have at least a post-secondary education, but they are about three quarters as likely to feel they have the capabilities to start a business.
This could be due to social / cultural expectations, a lack of role models, education or experience in fields where entrepreneurship is less prevalent, or other factors.
Role played by women as leaders of businesses in different locations
From the perspective of the unique impact women entrepreneurs offer, besides being highly educated, women entrepreneurs are highly innovative: nearly as innovative, or more so, compared to men entrepreneurs. Additionally, they tend to dominate entrepreneurial activity in the government, social, education and health sectors, which demonstrates their contribution to value creation in key areas of society.
In regions where entrepreneurship rates are higher, it is therefore a more common and accepted activity. In some (Vietnam, Philippines, Brazil), necessity motives are high, so women are starting because they need a source of income. But there are also opportunities in these rapidly growing economies, which can attract many women.
Coming up next for me and GEM
We are getting the US report ready for release at the end of the month. One interesting addition is the examination of three cities: Boston, Miami and Detroit. This will provide some interesting contrasts in entrepreneurship profiles among three geographically and demographically distinct cities.