"Conventional wisdom holds that women are less likely than men to start and lead businesses. This trend, however, may be changing. Since 2020, the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute (VEEI) has surveyed small businesses around the world. Our findings suggest that firms born in the past two years are more likely than older firms to be headed by women. They are also more likely than pre-pandemic firms to be led by minority women. And once they start to export, they sell to a larger and more diverse set of markets. These women-led firms are also adopting digital technologies at about the same rate as those led by men. What factors predict success? The newly established women-led firms that weathered the initial impacts of COVID-19 better than other businesses share three characteristics: 1) they are more likely to use digital payments; 2) they are more likely to sell on global marketplaces that enable them to scale their sales and diversify their markets; and 3) they are more likely to export. This paper sets out recommendations for policymakers and the business community to better encourage and support the development of women-led firms by: 1) providing access to digital opportunities; 2) fostering digital skills; and 3) promoting a safe environment in which women-led firms can operate."
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