Before we begin, this article does not intend to deliberately separate female entrepreneurs from male entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have a gender! Nonetheless, fewer ladies set out to start businesses despite the fact that their creativity and entrepreneurial potential are recognized Europe-wide as being underexploited sources of economic growth. The aim of this paper is thus to briefly run through the specific challenges faced by women, and present the networks and aids at their disposal to – hopefully – give women the boost they need to take the leap!
Context and key figures
According to figures from the European Union, women represent 52% of the EU population and only one third of entrepreneurs. In Luxembourg, despite efforts to improve those numbers, it’s pretty much the same story: only 39% of entrepreneurs are women. On a more positive note, the proportion of women has been on the rise in past years, and 38% of female entrepreneurs do so on a part-time basis in Luxembourg (30% in Europe), as opposed to only 12% of men (same in Europe). This consideration calls into question entrepreneurship it its conventional form and concept development from a “business differently” angle. Certain studies have established a uniform sociological profile for female business managers. For most of them, the urge to become an entrepreneur arose in the aftermath of job insecurity, a sequence of fixed-term contracts or an economic lay-off, for example. Starting their own business is often seen as a new path to freedom.
So, why is it that fewer women launch and run businesses? Seen from the outside, we might say it boils down to cultural and economic factors. Recent surveys have pinpointed the following challenges:
► fear of failure: at equal skill level, women and men sense their aptitude to become an entrepreneur and the fear of failure differently. However, it seems women are less likely to experience failure once their business is up and running (reasons for this including more conservative strategies and accepting proportionally lower profits).
► access to financing: lack of experience or resources, and the absence of guarantees or equity (women generally have less seed money for launching their business) are common obstacles to financing. Your family status (single, divorces or job seeker) could possibly add to the problem. On one hand, women’s financing applications are often better prepared. On the other hand, the attention to detail could play against them as it could convey a lack of confidence. Generally speaking, it seems women lack credibility when it comes to fundraising. Furthermore, they run smaller businesses with lower revenue.
► access to information: there does not seem to be any centralized source of information on financing possibilities. We’ve also heard complaints about administrative procedures being too long and hard to understand, as well as poor coordination of procedures by the various business-creation actors.
► training: 75% of women wish to improve their training in given areas (finance, law, sales and HR) before they dive in. Managing life as an entrepreneur calls for different organizational and thinking modes than what people are accustomed to in the salaried workforce.
► access to professional networks and the absence of models: networking takes time that women often do not devote to it. Yet it has been proven that taking part in effective networks is a non-negligible asset, especially when future entrepreneurs can draw inspiration from other women who have succeeded in their own business ventures. Also, the moral support from a person’s friends and, most importantly, family is often seen as a sine qua non condition for successfully launching a business. However, given Luxembourg’s still feeble entrepreneurial culture, it’s sometimes easier said than done.
► balancing work and family: the difficulty in developing a business without neglecting their family life can be another obstacle to women’s ambitions. Surveys conducted on the subject overwhelmingly point in that direction. Today, most women who start businesses either no longer have dependent children, or say they do not plan to have children.
The Commission actively supports entrepreneurship (in its feminine form), most notably via the Small Business Act and the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan. To be more specific, the Commission works to foster bonds and networks between female entrepreneurs, contenders for entrepreneurship and support organizations. A number of aids and networks exist at community level:
► WEgate, the new European “one-stop shop” platform for female entrepreneurship :
► EU Prize for Women Innovators, nominations for 2020 are now open;
► Various networks, such as The European Community of Women Business Angels and women entrepreneurs, The European network to promote women's entrepreneurship (WES), The European network of female entrepreneurship ambassadors, The European Network of Mentors for Women Entrepreneurs.
The Grand Duchy boasts multiple initiatives committed to entrepreneurs. Be sure to take note of the following active players:
► FFCEL (link in French) – The Federation of Women Entrepreneurs in Luxembourg (Fédération des Femmes Cheffes d’Entreprise du Luxembourg), a major player that supports women on political, economic and social levels. Amongst its other missions, the FFCEL helps women grow their network and hosts regular meetings to raise awareness.
► EQUILIBRE – An action tank dedicated to achieving gender complementarity in a socio-economic context. Their website has abundant resources and relevant reports about entrepreneurship (in its feminine form).
► WIDE - Women in Digital Empowerment is an a.s.b.l. with the mission to help women access opportunities in the digital field and bring greater visibility to those working in IT. WIDE offers various programs (Coding workshops, Startup Leadership program, Girls in Digital, etc.).
► In the same area, you’ll also find Geek Girls Carrots.
► Les Premières (website in French) - An incubator that is part of the first incubator network devoted to female entrepreneurs and innovative co-ed teams.
► Féminin Pluriel Luxembourg – A club and gathering of influential women belonging to the international network Féminin Pluriel, which hosts meetings and events locally to promote networking, and more.
► The NETWORK – The first English-speaking network for active, professional women in Luxembourg.
► Hub Dot Luxembourg – An initiative aiming to change the way women network, no matter their status. Each “dot” has a specific colour and message. For example, if you want to share an idea, choose the yellow dot “I have an idea, can anyone help?”.
The Business Women of the Year award, showcasing high-performing female entrepreneurs since 2006
In terms of dedicated media, on top of well-known publications Femmes Magazine, Janette, Luxembourg Féminin, you can try looking for inspiration in LUX WMN Magazine, the first magazine for women who want to “talk business.”
And to wrap things up, look out for the date of Profession’L, the first fair devoted to the professional reorientation of women in Luxembourg.
So ladies, believe in yourselves, surround yourselves with the right people, get organized and get out there! Our public authorities are committed to pursuing their mutual efforts to create an environment conducive to entrepreneurship in its feminine form, and change trends for the better.
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