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INSIGHTS / THE BIG PICTURE

Women entrepreneurs get ahead faster in Portugal

Portugal · Jan 24, 2019 · By Gareth Gardiner Jones

Still a long way to go for equality, but female founders in Portugal have made significant headstarts as tech innovators

When the #MeToo campaign went viral in October 2018, many women around the world stood forward, as individuals or together, to speak out against the longstanding issues of sexual harassment and inequality at work. At the forefront of this was what is now known as "Twitter feminism," as crowds (including men tweeting in solidarity) turned the social media platform into the center stage for their #MeToo complaints and protests.

The tech sector, it turns out – while often seen as an oasis of progressiveness in many aspects – has been failing women too in respect of equality, with performance indicators showing female employees and startup founders lagging behind their male peers across the board.

According to 2016's Mortimer Spinks and Computer Weekly Women in Technology report, which is the last major survey on women in tech worldwide, only 20% of senior tech positions are held by women – exactly the same percentage as that of women in corporate senior management roles, World Bank data issued last year show.

In Portugal, the conditions for women in tech and business have been more favorable. Last year's report by Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2018 placed Portugal tenth out of 57 nations in terms of female business ownership, with 28.7% of the companies there owned by women, above the US (25.5%), UK (25%) and Nordic nations reputed for gender equality such as Sweden (21.8%). Ghana was the clear winner with 46.4%.

Portugal also came out sixth in terms of its enabling environment for creating women entrepreneurs, again outranking almost every other country in southern and northern Europe. The economic crisis of 2008 has had a profound effect on Portugal's youth, whose unemployment rates topped 50%. That, coupled with better-than-EU average tertiary education levels (plus a higher number of female university graduates than males), has fostered a strong entrepreneurial spirit in the country.

Female tech pioneers

Edited by Bernice Tang and Suzanne Soh

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