SME week: Women entrepreneurs with a migrant background

The annual European SME Week 2012 is currently taking place in Brussels, with today’s theme being European women entrepreneurs.

In a series of discussions, policy makers, representatives of the European Institutions and of course, female entrepreneurs, came to speak about opportunities and challenges for promoting their activity.

Currently, only 34.4% of women in Europe are self-employed (following official figures provided by the European Commission).

The OECD states that women are less likely than men to engage in self-employed activity. When they do, women tend to run smaller businesses with fewer employees.

“Gallup Europe” further points out that only 6% of women currently own a business in the EU, compared to 9% in the US and 10% in Canada.

Moreover just 2.8% of European women are planning to start up a business compared to 4.2% in the US and 6.4% in Canada.

I chaired one of these workshops on the topic of: “women entrepreneurs with a migrant background”.

The five panellists joining me are of different geographic locations and various types of business. All speakers mentioned problems relating to stereotyping, language barriers, lack of mentorship and business education as obstacles they had to tackle for starting up their own business.

With that it became clear that recognizing the potential of migrant female entrepreneurs is only the beginning. Creating an environment in which they can develop their ideas and construct their business is the next step.

Supporting women in business – and those who have decided to become self-employed – can be promoted through research, investments in language training, financial advice, and other types of support.

Lastly, debates are also essential for raising awareness and influencing women’s attitudes towards self-employment.

Greetings from the European Parliament,

Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg

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