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Supporting women's entrepreneurship in Europe

In partnership with The European Commission
Supporting women's entrepreneurship in Europe
By Sergio Cantone
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Women make up 52% of Europe's population but they account for just 30% of startup entrepreneurs. Euronews went to Italy to find out why.

Women outnumber men in Europe but they account for just 22% of entrepreneurs.

Euronews reporter Sergio Cantone went to Rome to find out why. He spoke to Tiziana Pompei, Deputy Secretary-General of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, and asked her what is being done to boost female entrepreneurship, particularly in the area of innovation.

"Women are currently focusing their (entrepreneurial) activities in sectors such as commerce, tourism, farming and personal services," Pompei explained. "There are still too few companies owned by women but they are on the rise, especially thanks to young women investing in the digital and innovative sectors."

Biotech businesses

Next stop Naples, to see a concrete example of how female entrepreneurs are being supported in Europe.

Gabriella Colucci won the 2018 European Prize for Women Innovators. The award recognises female entrepreneurs who have developed and brought to market an outstanding innovation.

Colucci founded the biotech startup Arterra Bioscience, which develops plant-based research for cosmetics and the agro-industry. Thanks to its scientific results, Arterra Bioscience has managed to gain access to the large biotechnology market

“We should debunk the myth of the hegemony of transnational companies in the biotech sector," Colucci told Euronews. "Actually, biotech is an easy technology and open to anybody. Indeed, when it integrates a local scientific research network and productive organizations (SMEs and startups), it can deliver remarkable outcomes concerning the innovation of a specific product making process - and new opportunities”

So far, Arterra Bioscience has filed 14 patents for skin care applications.

New technologies and R&D are providing new opportunities to women who are eager to start their own business.

“We have to understand that this is the consequence of the fact that women make up as much as 80% of researchers," Colucci said. "And thanks to their creativity and motivation, they are achieving excellent results."

Investing in women-owned companies

Even so women still run just 22% of Italian SMEs​.

Italy has been investing in women-owned companies for more than 20 years, according to Tiziana Pompei. She says that an important element of that assistance is providing a support network.

"We have established committees for female entrepreneurship thanks to an agreement with the Ministry of Economic Development. Businesswomen and business associations all participate in those committees and together they all support women when they start their own businesses."

The European Commission is also investing in female entrepreneurship, thanks to initiatives such as: WEgate - an e-platform that helps bring together the network of stakeholders supporting women entrepreneurs - and WEHubs - a community of business support organisations promoting female entrepreneurship in the digital sector.

Boosting women's entrepreneurship

  • Even though there are more women than men living in Europe, women represent only one third of EU's entrepreneurs.

  • Women are also underrepresented in terms of creating innovative enterprises.

  • To inspire more women to bring their innovative ideas to the market and become entrepreneurs, the European Commission created a Prize for Women Innovators.

  • The Prize recognises the success of women in innovation in two categories – the main Women Innovators category and the Rising Innovator category for excellent female entrepreneurs under the age of 30.

  • Each finalist of the prize founded or co-founded a successful company based on her innovative ideas.

  • In June 2018, three prizes of €100,000, €50,000 and €30,000 were awarded in the main Women Innovators category and one prize of €20,000 will go to the winner of the Rising Innovator Award.

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