Global insights into fear of failure, entrepreneurial activity, and gender balance in entrepreneurs


As part of my work in helping global professional services firms build strategies for entrepreneurial markets, I’ve been spending some time with the trove of data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which is the largest study of entrepreneurship around the world.

One of the interesting issues I have been looking at is how varying fear of failure impacts entrepreneurial activity, as shown in the table below.

The countries are listed in order of fear of failure at entrepreneurship, followed by entrepreneurial activity by males and females (% of 18-64 year olds), and then the proportion of entrepreneurial activity that is driven by necessity in not being able to get other employment.

There are clearly many variables across countries in how these data points would relate, and no neat direct correlations, however some interesting perspectives emerge.

Where there is low fear of failure, which includes both developing countries such as Turkey and South Africa as well as USA, entrepreneurial activity tends to be strong, however Northern European nations have fairly low tendencies to entrepreneurship. The strong social support system in these countries seem to cut both ways, in reducing fear of failure but perhaps also not motivating entrepreneurial activities.

China is the standout in terms of entrepreneurial activity, however this is significantly driven by necessity.

Higher levels of fear of failure seem to constrain entrepreneurship in a number of countries, even those where are no alternatives for employment.

Thailand appears to be a country where people are successfully overcoming their fear of failure. Interestingly it is one of only two countries, along with Singapore, where female entrepreneurs outnumber males.

While Koreans seem to be driven by necessity, possibly Australians‘ entrepreneurial activity also involves transcending fears.

The ratio of male/female entrepreneurship not surprisingly appears to be driven significantly by cultural norms, with the biggest disparity in Turkey, France, Japan, and South Korea, however Northern Europe, which leads in female participation in politics and government, does not seem to do well in gender balance in entrepreneurial activities.

What do you think of this data? Are there any surprises or does it match what you would expect?

Perhaps the most interesting question is how can we decrease the fear of failure in national cultures, and would this help to drive higher levels of entrepreneurship?