Despite the relatively recent growth in the number of women-owned businesses, research has shown that women are both less likely to chose entrepreneurship and that their experience of business ownership differs substantially from that of men (Bird and Brush, 2002; Brush et al, 2006b). The dominant research (and policy) focus on the achievement of increased female business start-up and entry rates has constrained a more considered analysis of the comparative in-flows and out-flows of men and women. There is, however, an emerging concern that women may exhibit higher exit rates, and that these have yet to be investigated.

Evidence of a potentially higher exit rate among women business owners has emerged from two sources. First, statistics emerged over time in national self-employment datasets has revealed that disproportionately higher entry rates by women over the past twenty years have failed to result in the predicted increases in the overall female share of business ownership. Second, survey data have consistently demonstrated that newer businesses are more likely to be owned by women. Both sources indicate the possibility of comparative differences between men and women in business exit rates, but neither provides strong or conclusive evidence.

The aim of this paper is to explore the validity of concerns relating to comparative exit rates among men and women by analyzing data of male and female business owners. The study attempts to address two main research questions: 1) Are the differences in the rates of exit by male and female business owners? 2) Are the gender-based differences in the causes of business exit?