Entrepreneurship and Women

In all the European countries in the last years the theme of family-work reconciliation is at the center of the debate. There is a lack of  benefits for women that are mothers and in addition often do not exist the proper facilities to help them to combine work and private life. To be a mother in a lots of cases means automatically leave the workplace, in other cases the shift in part-time work forms, that usually are not very rewarding and which do not allow career advancement, or in extreme cases, dismissal.

Women that would like to start a business often have to face bureaucratic procedures and the lack of grant opportunitities and incentives. Things have changed since 1992 in Italy. In fact, some grant opportunities have been introduced for female entrepreneurs. Firstly, the Law 215 of 1992 called “Positive Actions for Female Entrepreneurship”, amended by Presidential Decree 28 July 2000 n. 314, that in
paragraph 2 of article 1 establishes that the grant is directed to:

encourage the creation of female entrepreneurship;
promote entrepreneurial training and qualify the professionalism of women entrepreneurs;
facilitate access to credit for companies that are run (or predominantly run) by women;
promote the involvement of companies that are run (or predominantly run) by women in the most
innovative sectors.

To access this fund, applicants must have some characteristics. The owner of the company must be a woman, the employees must be women for at least 60% of the total, the joint-stock companies must have female shareholding for at least two thirds and the administrative bodies must be made up of at least two thirds of women.

Benefits and funding are granted both to start-up companies and to already established women’s businesses. In this last case the loans are used to acquire services or to start innovative business projects. In addition, article 10 of Law 215/92 foresees the establishment of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Committee in each italian region for the promotion of study and research on female entrepreneurship and to support female entrepreneurs.

In addition, many regions in recent years have launched initiatives to encourage the creation of female business, which are added to the national ones.

It is worth mentioning the virtuous case of the Sardinia region that with the “Impresa Donna” grant intends to support female employment by promoting business creation and self-employment for women. And in particular: “the intervention provides for the provision of a contribution for the start-up and development of the company and an integrated service of training and support advice that will be provided by a regional structure or other body in charge. In the case of a group, the group leader or other component expressly indicated in the application can benefit from the integrated service”.
The total amount of investments must be between 60,000 euros and a maximum of 400,000 euros. Funding for female entrepreneurship can be requested on these eligible expenses, which must be in line with the minimums imposed by the Community legislation on state aid. The contributions are disbursed with 50% as a non-repayable loan, for a 50% interest rate subsidy with interest of 0.5% per year and the duration of the loans is at most 10 years from the date of approval of the project.

It is worth mentioning that the European Commission is investing heavily on the issue of female entrepreneurship through structural funds and in particular with the European Social Fund (ESF), with the aim of reducing the employment gap between men and women. A lots of companies has been opened thanks to these grants, but obviously this is only the beginning of this empowerment process and it is hoped that female entrepreneurship will grow in all sectors.

Maria Chiara – Sisterality Italian team

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