This study investigates gender differences in South African self-employment, focusing particularly on earnings differences. The study identifies a large earnings gap in favour of men in self-employment, and it explores how the determinants of female and male returns to self-employment differ. Using a combination of descriptive and econometric methods and data from the Labour Force Surveys for 2001-2007, I find that female self-employment is more likely than male selfemployment to exhibit characteristics that are associated with low returns. The female self-employed tend to work part-time, be home-based, have own account enterprises and work in unskilled occupations in the informal sector. The data also suggest the presence of gender discrimination among the self-employed which may be the result of consumer discrimination and discrimination in access to credit or product markets. Focusing on the non-agricultural informal sector, I construct a more detailed gendered profile of the self-employed using a household survey from October 2005, namely the Survey of Employers and the Self-Employed. This survey captures a wealth of information on the self-employed and their businesses which is not available in the Labour Force Survey data. The analysis reveals that, in comparison to men, women are more likely to enter self-employment out of necessity, spend less starting a business, have poorer access to transport and report lower overheads. In light of the key constraints identified particularly by women in self-employment, the analysis suggests that assistance with marketing, better access to raw materials/supplies, provision of an alternative location, and better access to credit markets would help improve the profitability of their businesses.