Switzerland: A great place to start your new venture … but for whom?

Once again, Switzerland has been ranked as being among the most supportive environments for entrepreneurship and innovation in the world. Yet, if we bring gender into the equation, everything changes. 

Ranking high? Ranking low!

Repeatedly, Switzerland is recognized for its institutional context that makes the starting and developing of new ventures relatively easy (GEM 2019/2020). In the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Switzerland even ranks at the very top. Switzerland’s favorable business environment is particularly recognized for access to finance, education, knowledge and technology transfer, infrastructure and government programs (GEM 2018/2019). The manifold efforts to foster the Swiss entrepreneurship ecosystem seem to pay off – at least for some entrepreneurs. 

If we bring gender into equation everything changes: Switzerland finds itself clearly at the other end of the ranking. Interestingly, none of countries top ranked with respect to their entrepreneurial ecosystem overlap with the countries ranked in the top ten on gender equality (Aidis & Weeks 2016). With more than twice as many male entrepreneurs (9.98%) than female entrepreneurs (4.72%) active, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2018/2019 ranks Switzerland particularly poorly (rank 42 of 48) in terms of gender equality. Indeed, 25 of 30 reference countries ranked better than Switzerland in terms of female participation in entrepreneurship (GEM 2018/2019). 

Gender neutral is not good enough

Today, we know that gender-blind business support does not help women to grow their businesses as they help the male equivalents (Aidis & Weeks 2016). Thus, even a „gender neutral“ business environment has probably gender biased outcomes. Without doubt, an entrepreneur’s decision start a new venture is embedded in its social, cultural, historic and economic context that may foster or hinder the development of a new venture. Given the embeddedness of entrepreneurial activities, there is still a lack of research on how the Swiss context of affects women entrepreneurship. As outlined above, the low ranking in terms of female participation in entrepreneurship suggests that the Swiss business environment is far from being as great for women as it is for men. Recently, research demonstrated that for example extended paternity leaves can be an important facilitator for women’s participation in entrepreneurship – a dimension where Switzerland would definitely rank low.   We further know that despite the high accessibility of (entrepreneurship) education for Swiss women, few female founders seem to translate their high expertise into new ventures. Accordingly, the gender gap becomes evident when we look at innovation-driven and high impact startups. These ventures often originate from research undertaken at universities; however, the SWITT Report (2013, more recent data is not available) shows that women only led 5.9% of university spin off. 

Overall, the assessment of the Swiss female participation in entrepreneurship remains somewhat of a black box and a careful analysis of institutional impediments is still lacking. We can however witness the public entrepreneurship discourse as highly gendered phenomena (Ahl & Marlow 2012). The rankings of the business environment without gender-differentiated factors showcases that – despite increased awareness and many good intentions  – ‚gender neutral‘ is not good enough. Unfortunately, institutional impediments keep female entrepreneurs from fully benefitting from Switzerland’s great business environment.


Aidis, R., & Weeks, J. (2016). Mapping the gendered ecosystem: The evolution of measurement tools for comparative high-impact female entrepreneur development. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 8(4), 330–352. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJGE-12-2015-0044

Ahl, H., & Marlow, S. (2012). Exploring the dynamics of gender, feminism and entrepreneurship: Advancing debate to escape a dead end? Organization, 19(5), 543–562. https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508412448695

Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2019/2020). Global Report. 

Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2018/2019). Report on Switzerland. 

Naldi, L., Baù, M., Ahl, H., & Markowska, M. (2019). Gender (in)equality within the household and business start-up among mothers. Small Business Economics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-019-00275-1

SWITT Report (2013) 

Welter, F. (2011). Contextualizing Entrepreneurship-Conceptual Challenges and Ways Forward. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 35(1), 165–184. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6520.2010.00427.x

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