Research uncovers the entrepreneurial ambitions of women in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore


Women in Southeast Asia have stronger entrepreneurial aspirations than women in other areas of the globe, a new study suggests.

The second annual Global Entrepreneurship Survey 2020, conducted by OnePoll and global nutrition brand Herbalife Nutrition, polled 9,000 women aged 18 and above across 15 countries including the US, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Russia, Spain and Italy. 2,000 of those were based in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. All were asked questions on their attitudes towards entrepreneurship and their motivations for starting businesses.

While the study showed a global average of women aspiring to be entrepreneurs at 72 per cent, that percentage rose to 81 per cent in Southeast Asia. The desire to start a business was most pronounced for women aged 18 to 39 – Generation Z and Millennials. 

When asked about their motivations for wanting to start a business, most women (56 per cent) cited the need to support their family. Second was the desire to be their own boss (54 per cent) and 45 per cent wanted more flexibility at work, while 41 per cent wanted to pursue their passion.

But despite the commonplace desire for women to start businesses in Southeast Asia, there are a number of barriers. Only three in five women questioned have taken actual steps in setting up a business, citing initial startup costs as the biggest barrier, followed by lack of market knowledge support.

“With more women in [Southeast Asia] having a desire to start their own business compared to the global average, we see opportunities for countries to actively encourage women entrepreneurship,” said Stephen Conchie, Senior Vice President and Managing Director for Asia Pacific, Herbalife Nutrition.

“Bringing together public and private sectors to provide the opportunities, resources, education and training to support women entrepreneurs will empower them to break out of social and cultural norms and lay the foundation for more inclusive economic growth. Not only can they benefit from having better income opportunities, society will profit from having a new generation of entrepreneurial role models that can pave the way for better opportunities for women in the future.”

It’s proven that positive role models encourage more women into entrepreneurship – and 84 per cent of the Southeast Asian women participating in the survey agreed that a key drive for entrepreneurship is a desire to become role models for younger women.

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