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Thursday, 17 November 2011 13:09

Female mentors to help woman entrepreneurs to get started

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EU Policies

business womanA new European network of mentors to promote female entrepreneurship through the sharing of know-how and experience has been launched today by the European Commission. Women only account for 34.4% of the self-employed in Europe. To raise this share, successful businesswomen will assist women entrepreneurs who established a new enterprise two to four years ago. The mentors will give these new entrepreneurs concrete advice on how to run and grow their enterprises in this early, critical phase of the businesses as well as help them to develop the necessary soft skills and coach them. The network will cover 17 European countries; 170 mentors will participate in it.

Entrepreneurship fits well with women's life choices in particular giving them flexibility regarding the reconciliation of private and professional life, specifically concerning the time and place of work. Further, due to the economic crisis, many women that became unemployed could use their skills and knowledge, start-up their own company and create their own job.

European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Enterprises, said: "It is clear that female creativity and entrepreneurial potential are the most underexploited source of economic growth and new jobs that should be further developed in Europe. In a time of crisis we cannot afford to forgo this potential. Having more women entrepreneurs will economically empower women and contribute to growth."

For more information DG Enterprise and Industry


  • Selection of mentors

Mentors will be selected among businesswomen (or businessmen) who have personal experience of owning and managing a SME successfully for at least five years and are aware of specific challenges that women entrepreneurs face and are ready and willing to share their knowledge and know-how with their mentorees on a volunteering basis (i.e., without remuneration), are available to meet them regularly for a minimum of one year and are willing to engage with at least two mentorees.

The mentors shall meet with their mentorees regularly and discuss with them current as well as strategic issues of the management of the mentorees' companies, helping them to build / acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence/mindset. To avoid conflicts of interest, mentors are not allowed to take any economic interest in their mentorees' companies.

The potential of women entrepreneurs in creating economic growth and new jobs:

  •  In the USA the Women Presidents' Organisations (WPOs) released the latest figures of the 50 fastest growing women-owned/led companies in North America. The Top 50 generated a combined $4.1 billion in 2010 revenues (mean of $82.7 million) and collectively employed 24,650 in 2010 (projected average for 2011 is 557 employees per company).
  • The UK government in its WES (The European network to promote women's enterpreneurship) 2008 report mentions that women are the largest underrepresented group in terms of participation in enterprise. Only 15% of the 4.7 million UK enterprises are majority women-led and if women started businesses at the same rate as men there would be 150,000 extra start-ups each year in the UK. If the UK matched US levels of female entrepreneurship there would be 900,000 more businesses in the UK.
  • In Sweden in 2008 more than 131000 companies were run by women having more than € 35 billion in total turn-over, employing around 358000 people and paying their employees more than 6 billion Euros in salaries.

Women enterprise differently than men, therefore women-specific support measures are needed:

  • Firstly, women attach more importance to family circumstances when considering setting up a business (61% versus 49% in the case of men). They will think very carefully about probabilities of success and examine every potential source of failure in detail before they use the family house as collateral and/or family savings as capital to start-up their business.
  • Secondly, in most cases, when women decide to start up a new company, they keep their former jobs and carry out both activities in parallel for some time: in this respect, one can say that women are more cautious than men and their awareness of risk of failure is more developed.
  • Thirdly, women take over existing businesses after a longer testing period than men, once they are familiar with the companies' activities (because of heritage, separation or divorce from a business partner, etc.).
  • The fourth particularity is financing: women's start-ups use less capital than men's and have less equity.
  • Finally, women entrepreneurs have compared to men a lower but steadier growth. This often means less risk for failure.

The European Network of Mentors for Women Entrepreneurs is one of the actions proposed in the 2011 Review of the Small Business Act for Europe. It will cover 17 countries (Albania, Belgium, Cyprus, FYROM, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom).

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