We celebrated International Women’s day together with the European Interest Group of Women Entrepreneurs in the European Parliament (hosted by Ms Sirpa Pietikäinen, MEP) talking about women, their role in the European economy as well as European support measures for women entrepreneurship and innovation. Thank you to our speakers, our sponsors Deloitte Belgium and Seldia and all those inspiring women that joined our debate!
MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen, Chair of the Interest Group of Women Entrepreneurs in the European Parliament (IGWE), opened the discussions by reminding the participants that we are a long way from having a 50/50 gender balance in the workforce and that the lack of equal representation of women in the economy has numerous negative effects on growth and the society as a whole. Ms Pietikainen also recalled the 2008 European Commission Small Business Act (SBA) which identified some of the main issues faced by women entrepreneurs: lack of role models in entrepreneurship, weak social status, competing demands on time, difficulties in accessing capital and funding. However, she insisted that nearly 10 years had passed, and that it was time for the EU to take stock of the Act, and evaluate whether or not over it has successfully tackled women’s entrepreneurship issues.
Ms Grazia Rendo, WEP’s Chairwoman, delivered a speech which highlighted the lack of training and education as a barrier to women entrepreneurs. Ms Rendo gave the example that in the ICT sector in Europe, in which the majority of jobs are held by men, and women are under-represented at all levels. On International Women’s Day celebration week in Europe, and with the coming United Nations CSW61 starting on March 13th dedicated to women economic empowerment and the state of women jobs in the world, in 2017 women only make 30% of the 7 million people working in EU’s digital sector, and they are still very under-represented in decision making positions. While in recent years, EU policies have given greater attention to ICT skills, and in particular to the employment of ICT specialists, more needs to be done in order to specifically empower women in this very important sector. According to European Commission, encouraging more European women into ICT could increase EU’s GDP by 9 billion euros a year.
Dr. Ulla Engelmann, Head of Unit at the European Commission, DG Growth, highlighted the need for a stronger link between research and entrepreneurship. The European Commission recently launched the WeGate platform which aims at providing crucial information, inspiration and support to women entrepreneurs who are starting, financing, managing, marketing and expanding their businesses. According to Dr. Engelmann, the European Commission is in the process of conducting a study on how social media can help entrepreneurs.
Ms Kirsi Haavisto, Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission, DG Research and Innovation, stated that when it comes to PhD graduates, gender equality is not a big problem, as at the moment there is approximately a 50%-50% balance between women and men. However, when it comes to business, women involved are only 20%. She shared with the participants that in the framework of the European Commission’s Work Programme of Horizon2020, gender equality is one of the values that is being promoted, but if we look at how many women obtained the research funding, they are less than 20%.
During the Q&A session all participants agreed that advancing gender equality and achieving economic growth are mutually advanced through women’s entrepreneurship and innovation. Women entrepreneurs have an important impact on the economy, both in their ability to create jobs for themselves and to create jobs for others. It was highlighted that it is vital to hold regular exchanges between women entrepreneurs in order to bring communities together and foster a better dialogue and networking.
You can find more pictures here.