Lower-income countries such as Uganda and Bangladesh have some of the highest rates of female entrepreneurs, even though conditions can be discouraging, MasterCard's research showed.
MasterCard's Index of Women Entrepreneurs Report 2017, released to coincide with International Women's Day, found that more women in developing markets were driven by necessity to start their own enterprise, as opposed to pursuing a promising business opportunity.
The report studied and ranked 54 countries based on indicators that determine how easy it is for female business owners to thrive on a scale of one (least favorable) to 100 (most favorable).
Uganda had the highest percentage of female business owners at 34.8 percent, but the east African nation scored poorly on the Index of Women Entrepreneurs with a score of 58.6. The poor score is largely due to poor governance and high barriers to starting a business.
But the study did reveal that Uganda has a healthy cultural and social acceptance of female entrepreneurs.
There is also strong support from various associations such as Enterprise Uganda and Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association that offer resources such as business advisory services and credit facilitation services.
Over in Asia, Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs make up 31.6 percent of all business owners. This comes in spite of the extremely poor women advancement outcomes, knowledge assets, financial access and supporting entrepreneurial conditions.
Entrepreneurship is viewed as a vehicle to drive growth and to help alleviate poverty in Bangladesh. But women venturing to start their own business are at a disadvantage due to socio-cultural bias and a lack of societal encouragement.
This is reflected in the labor market, where female business leaders account for a meager 5.5 percent of the total, and 25 percent of all professional or technical workers.
In other developing markets where there is strong representation of female entrepreneurs such as China, Vietnam and Botswana, the report found that women generally "tap on business segments that are non-knowledge or innovation-oriented and within their local environment."
New Zealand, Canada and the United States are the top three countries with the most supportive conditions and opportunities for female entrepreneurs, MasterCard said.