Women Are Under-Represented in the European Startup Ecosystem

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New research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and SISTA reveals that overall, in 2022 women-founded startups in key European markets accounted for only 10% of startups created, 7% of fundraisings carried out and only 2% of funds raised.

Paris—Women are still under-represented in the startup ecosystem. While female participation in startups is gradually growing, gender equality lags behind across Europe. Across France, UK, Spain, Germany and Sweden, only 10% of startups created in 2022 have been created by women-only teams, 12% by gender-mixed teams.

After 3 editions of the SISTA x BCG Barometer focusing mainly on gender inequalities within the French tech and startup ecosystem, this 4th study explores the ecosystem in Europe more broadly by analyzing 1,788 startup creations and 6,157 fundraisings in 2022 across 5 key European markets: France, UK, Germany, Spain, Sweden.

Overall, there is no gender parity champion for startups among the 5 European countries studied. The UK startup ecosystem seems the most favorable for women overall, Germany and Spain are the least advanced.

Sweden offers the most favorable environment for women to start a business, but the worst one to scale it. With 1 in 3 startups created gathering a woman, and 2 in 10 men partnering with women at creation, Sweden's startup ecosystem is the most open to women. However, when it comes to attracting investments, women-only teams capture the least funds (1%) with the lowest average amount (€1.8 M) and widest gap vs men-only teams (14x more).

The UK emerges as the country with the overall most favorable situation compared to the countries studied in the barometer when considering both creations and fundraisings. The UK ranks almost systematically in the Top 2 countries for both gender mixed and women-only teams across all dimensions studied. Different initiatives in favor of women are observed, such as VC funds focusing on women-only startups and governmental programs fostering women entrepreneurship.

In France, women-only teams particularly struggle, while gender-mixed teams seem to cope better. It is especially difficult for women at creation: this is where women start the least a business solo (only 25%), where they team the least together (only 37%) and where gender-mixed teams have the lowest parity. Less inequalities are observed when it comes to funding, resulting from the different initiatives implemented by funds in the past years.

Whereas in Germany, mixed teams are also highly penalized. Germany is where men-only teams take it all the most: 77% in number of fundraisings, 91% in total amount raised. Gender mixed teams do not fare better, raising ~2.4 x less than men only teams.

Spain's startup ecosystem is atypical, as it is more favorable to women only teams than gender mixed teams. Spain hosts one of the largest women carried fundraising (Unavets) while being a small emerging ecosystem. However, outliers apart, inequalities faced women are still very high.

Interestingly, the study analyzed that women partner with men to break through the “glass ceiling” and raise more capital. Across France, UK, Germany, Spain, and Sweden, only ~1 in 10 men partner with women to start a business, while ~1 in 2 women partner with men. When partnering with men, women raise ~3x more funds, whilst their male counterparts raise -30% less funds than if partnering with other men. Women raise in average €12M when partnering with men, and only €4M as part of women-only teams. Teaming with men remains the most realistic option for women to create and scale their startup, and face less inequalities than with women-only teams.

Acting now to promote gender equity in startups. The 4th SISTAxBCG Barometer confirms that the startup ecosystem across the countries in Europe remains still strongly in disfavor of women.

“Women systematically miss out on the opportunity to contribute to the startup ecosystem, where new products, services, and solutions are developed to tackle major global issues and shape tomorrow’s world. Our study underlines the need to take immediate action to foster gender equality in startups, bridge the financing gap between men and women, and allow women to contribute more equally to the global economy.” Leila Hamidou, Managing Director & Partner at BCG, Leader of Women@BCG in Paris.

The SISTAxBCG report calls upon all stakeholders to take action to address the biases that perpetuate disparities in the startup ecosystem, and promote gender equality in startups. "By fostering a culture of equality, eliminating biases that account for 35% of funding disparities, and ensuring equitable access for all, we can pave a new path where women entrepreneurs have every opportunity to excel and carve a space for themselves in the world of startups.” comments Alexia Reiss, Executive Director of SISTA.

Amongst the several measures to take, the SISTA charter serves as a comprehensive framework for investors and VC firms to enhance gender parity by committing to:

  • Support gender representation measurement.
  • Implement more inclusive recruitment and investment practices.
  • Promote these best practices within the startup ecosystem.

Contact Person

Boston Consulting Group
Sarah Lauprete


SISTA is a collective of women entrepreneurs and investors that promotes more diversity in the digital economy by encouraging more investment in women-led businesses. SISTA's approach is unique in France. In partnership with all stakeholders in the ecosystem, the collective co-constructs best practices to fight against unconscious bias and bring out a more diverse generation of leaders. Created in December 2018 by Céline Lazorthes, Tatiana Jama and Valentine de Lasteyrie, the collective is led by Déborah Loye and its board is composed of Nathalie Balla (La Redoute & Relais Colis), Mercedes Erra (BETC - Havas Worldwide), Anne Lalou (La Web School Factory - Innovation Factory), Françoise Mercadal- Delasalles (CEO Credit du Nord) and Stéphane Pallez - (Française des Jeux).

Paris-based Sista has launched its first VC fund to invest in startups with at least one female founder. The vehicle, which has a target of €100 million, will be used for pre-seed to Series A investments in areas including fintech, healthtech, SaaS and consumer. Paris-based Sista has launched its first VC fund to invest in startups with at least one female founder. The firm seeks to invest in women led startups and aims to reduce funding inequalities between entrepreneurs.

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