Accelerators as Drivers of Gender Equality

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A Guide to Gender Lens Acceleration

Accelerators providing business support to entrepreneurs play a crucial role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem as they prepare entrepreneurs for growth and serve as a pipeline for investors. The gender gap in acceleration is very apparent: only 13% of applicants are women-led teams compared to 52% male-led and 35% mixed teams1. This means that women entrepreneurs are less likely than their male counterparts to access and benefit from the business, network, and investment support that accelerators provide. 

Our research showed that challenges such as low-growth industries, lack of confidence, balancing family responsibilities with entrepreneurial demands, and lack of capital contribute to women entrepreneurs being more likely than their male peers to be stuck in the early phases of venture development and prevent them from making the leap to creating scalable high-growth ventures. Because of this there is opportunity to make significant gains toward a gender-equitable entrepreneurship landscape. Increasing the number of women starting and succeeding in entrepreneurship is a systemic issue with many different possible intervention points for the various actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

For accelerators, this guide aims to be a starting point in helping to apply a gender lens to accelerators’ processes and measurement, focusing on making business support and resources more accessible for women entrepreneurs, and increasing all entrepreneurs’ awareness of gender equality and gender equity.

Who Is This Guide For ?

This guide starts from the premise that all accelerators and entrepreneur support providers can benefit from applying a gender lens to programs management and measurement. Accelerators, incubators, mentorship networks, and other intermediaries supporting entrepreneurs from idea to scale will find useful insights and recommendations to make their programs more accessible to women entrepreneurs.

What Does The Guide Cover ?

The first part, “Barriers to Female Entrepreneurship in Latin America”, provides a foundation by outlining the challenges that women entrepreneurs face in Latin America and how their attitudes, motivations, and entrepreneurial setup and outcomes differ from men.

The second part of the guide, “Gender Lens Acceleration”, explores the differences between women and men entrepreneurs in acceleration, and the challenges women entrepreneurs face in accessing acceleration support. A gender lens is then applied to the acceleration process, covering program set-up and design, promotion, scouting and application, selection of participants, and program delivery. Each phase of the process is broken down into an overview of how gender manifests, and recommendations and best practices that accelerators can apply to make their programs’ processes gender inclusive. The guide concludes with gender lens measurement in acceleration.


The insights and recommendations presented in this guide are based on research conducted by INCAE Business School and Impact Hub. A quantitative study based on a data set of 70 ventures from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, El Salvador, and Costa Rica was carried out by INCAE Business School, including data provided by the Entrepreneurship Database Program at Emory University; supported by the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative. Ventures for the study were sourced from Accelerate2030, a growth and scaling program for innovative solutions contributing to the UN SDGs, co-initiated by Impact Hub Geneva and UNDP. The sample included female-led (17%), male-led (44%), and mixed (39%) teams. In addition, Impact Hub conducted semi-structured interviews with 28 women entrepreneurs from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Venezuela, and with representatives from the following accelerators: Accelerate2030, B2Mamy/Wishe Ventures, Endeavor Colombia (Medellín), Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI), Impact Hub Berlin, Impact Hub Monterrey, Impact Hub San José, Start-Up Chile, Village Capital, The Womanity Foundation, ygap.


This project was supported by the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), a program of the Aspen Institute, with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of ANDE nor IDRC or its Board of Governors