Women’s contribution to innovation and entrepreneurship has increased in recent decades, but gender equality has not yet been achieved.
Making room for female entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship has a crucial role to play in Europe’s economic growth. Yet women entrepreneurs continue to face different gendered challenges. In recent decades, huge efforts have been made to reduce inequality and bolster women’s representation in the world of entrepreneurship. Despite this, men still dominate the business world.
Support and opportunities for women’s advancement are particularly limited in male-dominated industries, which constitute the majority of the labour market. Only 6% of S&P 500 companies have a female CEO and 8.8% Fortune 500 CEOs are women. This data is according to a 2022 report by Women Business Collaborative (WBC), Ascend, C200 and Catalyst.
The WEbarometer 2021 report, carried out by WEgate, revealed that while women represent 52% of the European population, only 34% of the European Union are self-employed and 30% of start-up entrepreneurs are female. The study also highlighted that less than a 23% of the 316 respondents rated the environment for accessing finance as good or better. These low rates of entrepreneurship among women remain a major problem despite the efforts of the European Commission.
Bridging the gap through A4E
“There are many barriers to female entrepreneurship. From lack of education, training opportunities, lack of experience, to difficulties in acquiring financial resources to launch our own business, as we are less connected to the financial ecosystem”, explained Francesca Natali, senior expert at META Group and member of Angels for Women (A4W), a network of women business angels that invest in female entrepreneurship.
The aim of A4W is to bring together to make early-stage investments accessible for female-led enterprises. The association invests in start-ups founded by women or predominantly targeting the female market, which are selected during a screening process.
As an A4W member, META Group has already invested in several promising female-led start-ups. One of them is Orange Fiberan Italian company that has patented and produces sustainable fabrics from citrus sub-products. It creates high quality textiles from the sub-products produced by the citrus processing industry. It would otherwise require waste disposal at a high cost to both the industry and the environment. Another example is Deesup, a digital marketplace focused on buying and selling used designer furniture.
Obstacles in entrepreneurship
Women face a significant number of difficulties in establishing and running businesses. In most cases, these include access to finance, unfavourable business regulations, education gaps, lack of relevant contacts and occupational segregation.
Although some of these obstacles may be common to both women and men, evidence suggests that the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs are often significantly greater than those experienced by their male peers. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, major gender inequalities in entrepreneurship include:
- access to credit, finance and capital
- networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs
- horizontal gender segregation
- reconciling work and family life
- prejudices and stereotypes about women in business
Why is it important to address gender gap and inequality in entrepreneurship and business in general?
Diversity and inclusion foster a work culture that challenges stereotypes and are increasingly regarded as a source of competitive advantage and a key enabler of growth.
Besides creating new jobs for themselves and others, having more women entrepreneurs could support the diversification of business, products and services, stimulating innovation and providing different solutions to organisational and business problems.
At META Group, we believe that angel investment and supporting women-led innovation can help more women get access to funding, networking and mentoring programs and ultimately start and grow successful businesses.