Female Entrepreneurs Who Succeed in Male-Dominated Sectors in Ethiopia

Alibhai, Salman; Buehren, Niklas; Papineni, Sreelakshmi. 2015. “Female Entrepreneurs Who Succeed in Male-Dominated Sectors in Ethiopia. ” Gender Innovation Lab Policy Brief;No. 12. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. 


In developing countries, female entrepreneurs have low returns. Yet, the few women who cross over into traditionally male-dominated sectors double their profits. So why don’t more women cross over? When parents and husbands support them, women are more likely to cross over. When they lack information on the earnings potential in male-dominated sectors, they are less likely to. This suggests a path to promote women entrepreneurs crossing over. The challenges Ethiopian women face in getting jobs and earning income come from a range of sources. Women start from a more difficult situation than men –without easy access to finance, land, training, education and effective business networks. The share of women in Ethiopia without education is almost twice that of men, which in turn limits women entrepreneurs’ ability to grow their businesses. Reducing gender inequalities in education and the labor market could increase annual GDP growth in Ethiopia by around 1.9 percentage points.

The Productivity Gaps of Female-Owned Firms: Evidence from Ethiopian Census Data

Dennis Essers, Kelbesa Megersa, Marco Sanfilippo.(2020) The Productivity Gaps of Female-Owned Firms: Evidence from Ethiopian Census Data, The University of Chicago Press Journals.


This paper provides new empirical evidence on the relative productivity disadvantage of female-owned firms compared with male-owned firms in a developing country setting. We rely on a large panel of manufacturing firms based on an annual census run by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia. Our preferred estimation shows a 12% difference in levels of total factor productivity between female- and male-owned firms. Drawing on novel quantile approaches to formally compare productivity distributions, we also dig deeper into some of the potential mechanisms underlying this gender-based firm productivity gap. Our findings suggest that various forces are at work. Most female-owned firms seem to concentrate in certain less productive subsectors, and only very few succeed in standing out. Moreover, lower productivity of female-owned firms is shown to relate to a combination of observed firm characteristics and unobserved structural factors that varies according to a firm’s position in the overall productivity distribution.