The S&D Group and Italian MEP Alessia Mosca, Member of the INTA Committee of the European Parliament, took the initiative to organise along with Google this stakeholders' roundtable emphasising on the engagement of women in the Digital Agenda and the opportunities that are being offered to women led enterprises from digital trade.
Other distinguished speakers at the panel included MEP David Martin, INTA Committee Coordinator, MEP Inmaculada Rodriguez-Pinero, S&D Standing Rapporteur for gender mainstreaming in the INTA Committee, Giulia Gazzelloni, female entrepreneur and founder of "Le Cicogne", Hendrike Kuehl, from the Trans-Atlantic Business Council (TABC), Christian Borggreen, from the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and Marc van der Ham from Google.
The discussion focused on policies that will promote women empowerment and greater women participation in the technology sector. The speakers noted that there needs to be done more on education, connectivity and we need to fight against any cross border burdens. There are women capable and willing but they are not being involved enough. Further they emphasised that trade can be a way to promote gender equality worldwide and we need to collect more data on the EU level to be able to have an efficient gender balanced policy. CSR is very important and big companies need to be engaged in that discussion.
Giulia Gazzelloni provided her own experience of how she started up her company and now she is struggling for funds in further growing. As she said, venture capitals look more for men run businesses than for women run ones. It is a cultural barrier that we need to overcome. We need to change attitude.
It was highly valuable to see that such important stakeholder from policy makers to representative of the corporate world were there to have concrete dialogue. This was a great opportunity for me to present the EESC’s opinion SOC/446 on female entrepreneurship. I presented the bare numbers, specifically that in the European Union only 1 in 10 women are entrepreneurs as opposed to 1 in 4 men, with about 60% of university graduates being women. I pointed out that if we actually want to get out of the financial crisis then we need to support female entrepreneurship. During the crisis it has been women run companies that have produced the greatest number of jobs in Europe.
We need to stop stereotyping which stops us from breaking the blockages on the way. We should not behave like victims. We don’t need venture capitals, we can do it on our own. Women are collaborators and coordinators and many other "co-". We need to think outside of the box. A successful business is one that is giving answers to the needs of the clients. The Digital Agenda gives solutions which we need to pick up on our own.
My points were well received by the other speakers and participants who were quite eager to learn more about my work through the EESC about female entrepreneurship and gender balance in Europe, especially the four specific proposals that I have made and which I explained to them. We also discussed the role of women in business in TTIP.
Eventually, all participants agreed that there needs to be more policy and industry driven initiatives to address the issue and especially more men participation in women empowerment initiatives. We agreed to have a follow up event soon with more developments and proposals.
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Thank you for this great opportunity to introduce the EESC’s vision on gender equality and female entrepreneurship.