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Procedure : 2010/2275(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0207/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0207/2011

Debates :

PV 12/09/2011 - 27
CRE 12/09/2011 - 27

Votes :

PV 13/09/2011 - 5.26
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0367

Debates
Monday, 12 September 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

27. Women entrepreneurship in small and medium-sized enterprises (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Marina Yannakoudakis, on behalf of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, on women entrepreneurship in small and medium-sized enterprises (2010/2275(INI)) (A7-0207/2011).

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis, rapporteur. − Madam President, as governments face economic turmoil it is vital we harness existing resources to the maximum, and one of the best resources we possess are companies and businesses which can help create the wealth that is needed in a successful and vibrant economy. However, when we look at small and medium-sized enterprises today, we find they are still mainly run by men, which means that much of the population fails to reach its potential.

This report recognises the value of women entrepreneurs in SMEs and acknowledges that women face many different problems in different Member States in attaining their objectives. The report also recognises the contribution women in employment can make both to the local community and to the economy of the EU, and points out clearly that women have the right to choose the role they play within the home or the community they live in. Many women have to juggle their own aspirations to succeed alongside their commitment to their family. The aim of the report is to make this choice a reality through practical guidelines and best practice recommendations which Member States could adopt if they so wish.

EU Member States differ in their approach to women looking to run their own businesses and in the support they give these women. Whilst researching my report, I found that the difficulties women faced in setting up SMEs within Member States were more or less the same. Often they were unaware of the mechanics needed to start a business, they lacked the confidence or were unsure where to seek advice, and found financial institutions unsympathetic to their specific needs.

To address these difficulties I proposed a few amendments such as: firstly, to make better use of funding opportunities that are available to female entrepreneurs which allow fair and equal access to finance; secondly, we need to embrace national education concepts for young entrepreneurship in schools, for example, or to encourage female one-year entrepreneurship or apprenticeship programmes in universities; thirdly, we could recognise the importance of female ambassadors as they help promote competitiveness by inspiring women and young girls to set up their own businesses.

I would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs for their contribution to drafting the report, which I felt strengthened it.

We are going to be holding separate votes on paragraphs 34, 44 and 46, which relate to Romani women, migrant women and balanced representation on boards. All these topics are very important in their own right, but they are not really relevant in a report that specialises in women and SMEs, so for this reason I am not going to be supporting these separate votes.

As a woman who has been running my own company for 25 years, I know first hand the problems women can encounter when trying to establish a viable SME. I hope that this report will be adopted by the European Parliament, and that ultimately Member States will be able to use it as a basis for supporting women who wish to move forward in this field, for in spite of all the constraints and restrictions upon them, women have proved to be more than capable in the workplace when starting a business.

Recognising women’s ability in the workplace, and assisting them through media such as an EU report to strengthen their position, is vital. This will not only encourage women to move into the world of business, but will ensure when they move into it there is an even playing field and there is no room for gender discrimination.

 
  
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  Regina Bastos (PPE).(PT) Madam President, I would like to begin by congratulating the rapporteur on her work and thanking her for her openness and cooperation in reaching compromises that gained broad support. Today, it is vital to discuss small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurship, with regard to both men and women. Despite the major difficulties that small and medium-sized enterprises have been facing over the past few years, they do indeed continue to play an important role in job creation and are a driving force for economic growth in Europe. Female entrepreneurship should be encouraged as it has enormous potential to be exploited and it is a way of increasing employment rates.

In this report, the rapporteur requests and recommends that the Member States adopt measures for reconciling family and professional life in order to encourage women to start up their own businesses. We also agree with the recommendations on the need for advice on the methods of funding and financial management available, as well as the importance of accessing finance, particularly microfinance, and to promote, in this respect, the EU Progress programme.

Finally, I should like to clarify the position on the content of paragraph 46 by saying that, in the interests of legality, consistency and thoroughness, we shall vote on this paragraph separately as I do not object in the slightest to equal representation of men and women on the boards of large companies and stock exchange-listed companies, which is not currently the case.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). - (SK) Madam President compared to standard employment, self-employment brings more flexibility in relation to working time and the place of employment, and thus allows flexibility to combine work tasks with care for children and family, which is the foundation for a healthily functioning society.

I find it sad that in the European Union only one in 10 women is self-employed, compared with a ratio of 1:4 in men, despite the fact that women make up about 60% of all university graduates. The Commission, Member States and regional and local authorities should, therefore, make better use of the potential of women by creating new financing options designed specifically for women, such as special grants, the adjustment of social security regulations and an improvement in the provision of microcredit to women wishing to start their own small business. In this respect it is necessary to appeal directly to Member States to encourage banks to create business support services geared towards women.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Madam President, the current economic and financial crisis affecting the states of the European Union has added to the problems women entrepreneurs are already facing, particularly in the early stages after launching an economic venture. We are all aware what an important role micro-enterprises play in the European economy. Around 90% of European businesses have less than 10 employees, with more than a quarter being set up by unemployed people.

I feel it is vital for the Union to retain financial support for women entrepreneurs in the next budget too. Indeed, the tax benefits provided for SMEs should be available to all entrepreneurs without discrimination. It is also important for the participation of women in entrepreneurial activities to be promoted more widely on the European labour market, including with the aim of exchanging experiences and good practices and of streamlining resources.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková-Beňová (S&D). - (SK) Madam President, it is with regret that we must still even today state that women in the labour market continue to be discriminated against even within the European Union.

We most commonly hear of differences in salary. However, in practice women have fewer opportunities also when establishing or operating SMEs. Women also face barriers when accessing information support and financial and technological instruments and services, which often limit their opportunities to expand their business and compete for example for governmental or municipal tenders. It is important to recognise that the working and entrepreneurial skills of women are important to us and for society as a whole, and in so doing we would also strengthen their position. Not only does this encourage women to break into the world of business, but by taking properly implemented steps we could ensure that women enjoy truly equal conditions and that gender discrimination is eliminated.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Madam President, according to the statistics, the financial and economic crisis has exacerbated the problems for many women entrepreneurs, especially in the first three years of business. This is why we encourage the Commission, Member States and regional and local authorities to make better use of the funding opportunities available, such as the European Progress Microfinance Facility, which provides micro-credits of up to EUR 25 000 to micro-enterprises and those wishing to start their own micro-enterprise.

For women to become entrepreneurs, it is important that they have equal access to traditional business networking opportunities and to information and communication technologies. Another key consideration for working women is the availability and quality of care services for children under the age of three.

I call on the Commission and Member States to pay particular attention to the situation of women over the age of 50, to help them set up their own companies and to consider the creation of mentoring and support schemes for them.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL).(PT) Madam President, the current crisis is having a particularly significant impact on women, particularly those on lower incomes. Growing unemployment among women and the surge in precarious and poorly paid jobs are contributing to an increase in the number of women living in poverty and are creating conditions for greater discrimination and exploitation. It is in this context that many women are forced into false self-employment – a bogus type of self-employment that is only used to circumvent social protection and exclude these workers from basic workers’ rights in order to reduce labour costs. This is an unacceptable practice that must be opposed. It is clear that there are women entrepreneurs in small and medium-sized enterprises who should naturally be supported by ensuring that there is no form of discrimination here either, and, in this respect, we would like to stress the need to adopt certain measures that have already been discussed here in Parliament.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, SMEs make a fundamental contribution to economic growth, social cohesion and job creation. However, one distinctive feature of the European business environment is the inequality between men and women. The latter account for only 30% of all entrepreneurs in Europe. This discrimination is detrimental to both women and the economy.

Europe must have programmes available to encourage and support women in business. I am in favour of creating an agency for developing businesses set up and run by women. I think that a European database needs to be set up to implement a proper policy for women entrepreneurs. The business potential offered by women must be utilised more effectively at local, regional, national and European level.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). - (SK) Madam President, by way of introduction I would like to say that I appreciate the efforts of the European Parliament regarding the targeted gradual improvement of the position of women in European society.

In various reports, recommendations, and regulations we call on the Member States to create better conditions in their legal systems for the employment of women in public administration, the business environment, in management positions, and also in regular employment or work at home. Although it is indisputable that these efforts exerted by the European Parliament bring certain results, I believe that, alongside other proposals for improving the status of our women, such as in this case in their application in the business environment, we should make greater efforts to evaluate the feedback on the proposed measures to see which of the measures are effective and help us meet the expected targets and which measures, for some reason, do not work. We might then be able to more effectively propose further steps to improve the status of our women and possibly also in the business environment.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE).(HU) Madam President, the financial and economic crisis has worsened the problems faced by entrepreneurs, including many potential women entrepreneurs. Women under the age of 25 and over 50 have been worst affected by the financial crisis, so we need to pay particular attention to these age groups. Despite the tremendous potential represented by women running their own business and women entrepreneurs in SMEs in terms of increasing employment among women, this has not been fully exploited in the European Union. It is vital to encourage women to enter into business, and to provide the sort of support that ensures the most efficient use of EU resources. Member States must continue to implement policies that enable women to balance work and private life appropriately.

It is important to recognise the ability and value of women entrepreneurs in SMEs. In order to strengthen their position and ensure continuous improvement of their situation in the workplace, we must find financial resources that can be targeted at this group, both at EU level and in the Member States, even in the present economic climate.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D). - (SK) Madam President, women have a more difficult labour market situation because of persistent discrimination against gender and age, with still significant wage gaps, concerns about family care and so on. Furthermore, members of the gentler sex have less ambition in times of crisis to launch their own business. I therefore welcome the rapporteur’s own-initiative report, in that today it is essential to support women in business so that they do not lose motivation and that they feel that they have support for their qualifications, abilities, skills and talent. Personally, I very much welcome the initiative of the Erasmus educational programme, which will be dedicated to the support of young women − future entrepreneurs. I also support the appeal made by our rapporteur to the Member States to seek new sources of funding or subsidies for women − entrepreneurs in particular, so that women have equal opportunities and possibilities to access the same finance and grants as men. Women need to feel that they have support also in the form of advice and assistance in the event of business failure. It would therefore be useful to also focus on the building of platforms at a supranational level for the exchange of knowledge and experience when addressing specific problems.

 
  
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  Antigoni Papadopoulou (S&D).(EL) Madam President, the European Union is right in wanting to develop women entrepreneurship by cofinancing innovative small and medium-sized enterprises with micro-credits. However, it is time to up the ante. Apart from the need to combat gender inequalities and reconcile family and professional obligations, emphasis needs to be placed on economic support and training for women entrepreneurs under business guidance programmes at the start of and during their business activities, on familiarising them with new information and communication technologies – because they open new horizons and opportunities for innovative employment – and, finally, on including special programmes and activities in school and university curricula and highlighting positive standards to stimulate self-confidence and develop business activity.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI).(DE) Madam President, I should like to thank Ms Yannakoudakis for this significant report. It is still the case that there are more male than female entrepreneurs in the EU. An institution like the Office of Women’s Business Ownership in the United States is an absolute necessity for the EU if female entrepreneurs are to receive support throughout the EU. Women are capable of multitasking and usually take a more cautious and prudent approach. It is crucially important for current social development that more women should get involved in the world of business.

Support schemes must be established at local, regional and international level, and, where such schemes already exist, they should be expanded.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, the Commission has proposed some concrete measures to promote female entrepreneurship within the scope of the Small Business Act for Europe.

The first measure was the creation of the European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors in 2009. We have managed to get entrepreneurs involved in campaigning on the ground in order to encourage women of all ages to set up their own business and become entrepreneurs.

Role models are very important when it comes to motivating a person to set up a new business. Today, we have 320 ambassadors in 22 European countries. This network has been a success; in its first year of operating, it has already exceeded its objectives in terms of holding events and meeting the public’s expectations: there are over 7 500 potential female entrepreneurs in 10 countries.

What is more, many ambassadors have gone beyond the task they were set, which was simply to campaign for female entrepreneurship. They have actively supported the creation of new businesses. Thanks to their work, in the six participating countries – we do not have any data on other countries – more than 110 new female-run businesses have been set up.

The Commission is preparing to launch the European Network of Mentors for Women Entrepreneurs on 15 November. This scheme is aimed at women who have already set up their business. We are going to enlist the support of female entrepreneurs so that they can act as mentors to new female entrepreneurs.

These mentors will help female entrepreneurs by offering them advice and support on start-ups, management and the development of their business. They will be selected at national level by the contractors participating in the scheme and will be successful, well-known entrepreneurs.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Tuesday 13 September at 11.30.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Sergio Berlato (PPE), in writing. (IT) Entrepreneurs of both genders are, by definition, focused on their business and committed to making a success of what they do. Although women account for a significant proportion of the labour force in the Member States, men still outnumber women as entrepreneurs in the EU. Currently, in fact, EU Member States have each taken different approaches to supporting and promoting women in decision making and in the boardroom. The different support systems that have been developed over time in the Member States address the cultural and individual needs of the country concerned. Faced with this situation, the Commission is administering a voluntary group of women ambassadors in Member States that provide valuable technical support to female entrepreneurs. I agree with the rapporteur that more support should be given to this initiative and that best practices should be shared. There is no denying the valuable contribution that female workers can make both to the community and to the economy of the European Union. Many of them skilfully juggle their career aspirations with their family commitments, which is not easy. I therefore encourage the Member States in all the initiatives they are taking to support and promote projects aimed at women entrepreneurs.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE), in writing. – (RO) Gender equality is a fundamental principle of the EU, but inequalities remain in terms of entrepreneurship or decision-making power in most European states. According to the statistics, the number of women entrepreneurs is considerably lower than that of men, at a rate of around 30%.

Given the major contribution made by small and medium-sized enterprises to economic development, it is important to encourage investment readiness among women, already while they are at school. At the same time, we must fight to get rid of the gender stereotypes which persist from one generation to another. I think that it would also be useful to have an exchange of good practices between more economically developed and poorer regions in the EU, including through Erasmus-type programmes for young entrepreneurs.

In this same context, I believe that better use must be made of the funding opportunities available to women entrepreneurs, such as the European Progress Microfinance Facility. Last but not least, specific attention must be focused on providing childcare facilities to allow women to continue their career soon after having their children.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing.(RO) The number of women entrepreneurs in the European Union is significantly fewer than the number of men involved in business. However, the former make a significant economic contribution within society. In my view, in order to strengthen their position, it is vital to recognise the skills of women in the workplace and support them through the use of mass media. In doing so, it will not only encourage women to advance in business, but will also provide a fair environment where gender-based discrimination has no place. On the same lines, impetus should be provided for the conclusion of agreements between national governments and banks, with a view to granting favourable loans to encourage women to go into business.

 
  
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  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE), in writing.(PL) I know from my own experience what it is to be a woman entrepreneur, because I ran my own business before I went into politics. Therefore it is with great enthusiasm that I will vote in favour of this report, which promotes entrepreneurship among women. We need women in business, and particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises. There are many young, well-educated women who unfortunately are unemployed. I think that running their own business would for some of them be a very good option. We must encourage and help women in making their first steps towards this goal. What they need most of all is help in the form of information on potential sources of finance for small and medium-sized enterprises and on grants, preferential loans and the possibilities of using the European Progress Microfinance Facility. No less important is training and vocational guidance for those women who do not have practical knowledge about how to understand legislation or how to find investors and create viable business plans. To generate a natural increase of interest among women in running their own business it is necessary to teach entrepreneurship, and to do so in the early years of schooling, which will not only increase the proportion of female entrepreneurs in the market, but will also be useful in the fight against stereotypes, which result in discrimination and the perception of women as being unable to run their own business.

 
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