10 July 2017 | Report

Voices of women in entrepreneurship

Gender Lens Investing, Women's Economic Empowerment


This brief explores the unique challenges and motivations of women entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia, highlighting cultural and systemic barriers to their success. It delves into the landscape of women’s small and medium-sized enterprises (WSMEs) in the region and examines the societal and cultural norms that influence women’s decisions to engage in entrepreneurship; as well as the distinct challenges they face compared to their male counterparts.

The brief discusses the impact of gender roles on women’s business opportunities and their management and growth decisions. It highlights how women often start businesses out of necessity to balance work and family responsibilities, a factor influenced by cultural expectations of women as primary caregivers. The brief calls for a deeper understanding of these influences to support women entrepreneurs effectively and advocates for policy changes that could create a more enabling environment for women-led businesses.

This brief is published by the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at The University of Sydney, commissioned by Investing in Women.


  • Women entrepreneurs often smaller-scale businesses (often concentrated in sectors like retail or services) to balance work and family responsibilities, driven by cultural norms that see them as primary caregivers.
  • Female entrepreneurs frequently face systemic barriers in access to resources and opportunities, including lower access to capital and networks compared to male entrepreneurs.
  • Gender-specific biases, such as lower access to mentors, lower confidence in business management skills among women and limited property rights, hinder women’s ability to grow their businesses and access financing.

Download Resources Here

View other Resources