Until recently, women have not been seen as having the potential for entrepreneurial success. Yet women’s engagement in the energy sector could substantially improve energy access for those most underserved. This article examines the role of women as energy entrepreneurs from the perspective of gender inequality within the energy industry. Data from Nuru Energy, a social business focused on providing solar lighting to the ultra-poor, provide insights on how the inclusion of women sales agents can increase sales and how strategic modifications to the social business model can further support female-led businesses. Observational data from over 1,000 rural enterprises show that women, on average, sold significantly more units than men. Women operating in solo firms and leading group-based teams consistently outsold men-led solo and group-based enterprises. Findings further suggest that, when operating in groups, women tend to outperform men even more than when operating sole proprietorships.
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* The preparation of this article was supported by the ENERGIA, International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy ‘Gender and Energy Research Programme’, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID); but the views and opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors and should not be attributed to ENERGIA or DFID.