Digital entrepreneurship tools and support for women entrepreneurs

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Digital entrepreneurship tools and support for women entrepreneurs | Tools für digitales Unternehmertum und Unterstützung für Unternehmerinnen | Инструменти за цифрово предприемачество и подкрепа за жени предприемачи | Alati za digitalno poduzetništvo i podrška poduzetnicama | Ψηφιακά εργαλεία επιχειρηματικότητας και υποστήριξη για γυναίκες επιχειρηματίες | Strumenti di imprenditorialità digitale e sostegno alle donne imprenditrici | Digitālās uzņēmējdarbības rīki un atbalsts sievietēm uzņēmējām | Інструменти цифрового підприємництва та підтримка жінок-підприємців

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National Entrepreneurship Ecosystem and Women Entrepreneurs

Impact Measurement – Results of the online survey with digitalization experts

Conclusions from the Local Roundtables with Stakeholders


National Entrepreneurship Ecosystem and Women Entrepreneurs

Women and business, there is still much to be done to empower female entrepreneurship.

The global workforce is made up of more men than women, and female workers earn less than male workers for the same tasks.

Paradoxically, the situation is worse in Europe and North America than in Asia, where in some countries women entrepreneurs outnumber men. Italy is in line with the rest of the West: only one entrepreneurial activity out of five is led by a woman.

The situation is no different in startups worldwide: in the United States, the land of innovation par excellence, 71% do not have women on the board and 57% do not have any in the so-called C-Suite, the top positions. It's better, instead, in China and Great Britain.

In Italy, the presence of women in young innovative companies is even lower than in businesses. Yet, some international researches reveal that startups founded by women are more likely to receive investments than those founded by men only.

And other studies argue that women are better at identifying market needs and seizing opportunities.

However, there is a lack of female role models, that is, stories of women proposed as champions of entrepreneurship able to stimulate and support the action of other women.

The pandemic that began in 2020 unfortunately widened the gender gap. A study conducted by Accenture and Quilt.Al together with Women20 (W20) found that the spread of Covid-19 further widened the gap between men and women, generating a dilation of the time needed to achieve gender equality: it will take 51 years to complete the journey, from 2120 to 2171!

So what can be done to promote female entrepreneurship? We can, for example, intervene on training, encouraging girls and young women to acquire STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) knowledge and skills, in order to overcome gender stereotypes. But also think about regulations designed to facilitate female entrepreneurship in Italy.

Women's earnings declined 63% faster than men's, with the average decline in women's earnings more than 16% compared to just over 10% for men.

The analysis also shows that women are 79% more likely to be laid off than their male counterparts - a disparity often driven by the fact that women are employed more in industries vulnerable to business closures and have a lower presence than men at higher levels of career paths.

Today, out of 6 million businesses in Italy, only 1.3 million are led by women and less than 154 thousand are youth businesses, respectively 22% and 2.6% of the total.

According to the latest data from the Observatory on Female Entrepreneurship of Unioncamere (November 2021), the recovery in the pace of growth of female entrepreneurship is slow, though more solid after the pandemic: almost 24% of new businesses led by women were born as corporations (limited companies), type of business more structured and "robust" in terms of organization and management (compared to 23% in 2021 and 22.6% in 2020).

According to InfoCamere's report on innovative startups in Italy for the fourth quarter of 2018, published by the Ministry of Economic Development (Mise) in January 2019, female leadership is struggling to establish itself in these young companies even more than in established companies.

Out of 9,758 startups counted, those with female prevalence - i.e., in which ownership shares and administrative positions are held by a majority of women - turn out to be 1,300, 13.3% of the total. This is a much lower incidence than the 22.2% observed when examining the universe of new companies.

The innovative startups in which at least one woman is present in the corporate structure are 4,210, 43.1% of the total: a percentage that is also lower, although to a lesser extent, than that of the other new companies (47.7%). In short, statistics seem to indicate that to date startups are not a "business for women".

Yet some studies show the positive correlation of business performance with female leadership in both startups and traditional companies.

In 1999, analyst Kathy Matsui developed the theory of Womenomics for Goldman Sachs. Matsui argued that encouraging women to participate in the workforce would have a disruptive effect on her country's economy, which she measured as a 13% increase in GDP. After more than twenty years, however, the issue of women remains unresolved, and not only in Japan.

According to the European agency Eurofund, Italy is in Europe the country with the lowest rate of female participation in employment: 54.4% (worse than us only Malta) against a European average of 63.5% (first in the class is Sweden, with 77.6%): an under-employment that costs our country 5.7% of GDP.

Instead, to make women participate in the world of work, they would produce new wealth for a value equal to 11% of GDP.

There are many reasons why women are struggling to succeed in the workplace, to get equal pay to men for equal tasks and to rise to the highest levels. For example, reads the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum, the advent of automation is having a disproportionate impact on roles traditionally held by women.

At the same time, women are underrepresented in the fastest-growing sectors in terms of job prospects that require STEM, math and science knowledge and skills, even in Italy. As confirmed by the recent LinkedIn Recruiter Sentiment Italia 2019 research which involved the community of HR managers in the company there has been an increase in hiring in Italy over the past year, but digital skills, which are increasingly required by companies in the selection phase, remain a prerogative of male candidates.

Specifically, 45% of Italian HR managers say there are more male candidates with digital skills than female candidates (versus just 25% who think there are more "digitally savvy" women).

Another possible reason behind the gender gap is related to the lack of infrastructure to help women enter (or return to) the workplace, for example day-cares or senior care centers.

Unfortunately, unpaid work remains mainly the responsibility of women. The problem is not biological but social and cultural, with a not insignificant economic impact.

What can be done to encourage a cultural and social paradigm shift in the younger generations? Offer diversified role models that can create greater awareness in the choice of one's own passions, avoiding gender flattening and polarization.

Clearly, to reverse the trend in the short term, stronger incentives can be created for startups. In Italy, for example, an effective law regarding the presence of women in listed and public companies was the “Golfo-Mosca” law of 2012, which not only led to a tripling of the number of women on boards of directors halfway through its period of application, but also contributed to the creation of a pool of women from which to draw for the composition of boards.

Currently within Italian Government, we can find many prominent female figures, such as the first female Premier in the history of the country, Giorgia Meloni. Also within the Government we find some female ministers such as Eugenia Maria Roccella, for Family, Birth Rate, Equal Opportunities, Alessandra Locatelli for Disability, Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati for Institutional Reforms, Marina Elvira Calderone for Work and Social Policies, Anna Maria Bernini for University and Research, Daniela Garnero Santanchè for Tourism.

The GammaDonna Award was born in 2004 to help reduce the gender gap in the socio-economic field through the discovery and enhancement of female entrepreneurial initiative.

Today it is the first Italian TV format dedicated to innovative female entrepreneurship.

Here are some useful sites where you can find up-to-date information on women entrepreneurs:

·         Economy Up – Reference magazine in Italy for topics concerning the world of Startups, the Digital Economy and Innovation - www.economyup.it

·         Inside Marketing - Journal of marketing, communication and digital culture - www.insidemarketing.it

·         Department for Equal Opportunities Presidency of the Council of Ministers - www.pariopportunita.gov.it

·         Confartigianato Imprese - Associative Intelligence at the Service of Artisans and Small Entrepreneurs - www.confartigianato.it

 

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Impact Measurement – Results of the online survey with digitalization experts

No.

Name

Position

Email

1.

Ana Laura Benachio

Social media marketing expert in a local SME

analaurab82@gmail.com

2.

Marco Filippi

Founder of a start-up, based on digital tools

marcofilippi@live.com

3.

Elena Padovan

Trainer and consultant

padovanelena@yahoo.it

4.

 Laura Ceccon

Digital expert and free lancer

laura@quidonline.it

5.

Moran De Sanctis

Training department responsible in a service company

moran.desanctis@studiocentro.com

6.

Martina Gherlenda

EU project department responsible in a trade association

m.gherlenda@confprofessioni.eu

 

Concerning the Curriculum Prototype that has been developed, all the participants found it effective for women in developing of new digitalization skills and scaling up their businesses.

Concerning how much important is such a training on digitalization designed specifically for women entrepreneurs, all participants said “very important or extremely important”.

Based on their previous experience, in terms of reduction in time related to certain business tasks, thanks to the introduction of digital technology and the adoption of digital tools, most of the participants said minus 51/75%!

While in terms of cost reduction, most of the participants said minus 26/50%, or a little less.

Again, based on previous experience, in terms of increasing revenues, most of participants found benefit for women's businesses in the range plus 26/50%.

For the last question: “To what extent, based on your experience, the investment that women will need to be made to participate in such a training and to purchase the digitizing equipment and tools they will need for their business is profitable in terms of the benefit they will gain both in time and money through the digitalization of business tasks”, we can summarize the overall replies as follow:

-          very profitable and necessary at this time;

-          certainly, the time and value spent on digitization will soon benefit women, both economically and on quality of life (more time to spend on other activities);

-          investments in digital technologies and tools are fully compensated by the benefits in terms of costs, time and revenue, as mentioned, considering also they are crucial for the competitiveness of female businesses.

-          women have to dedicate a certain amount of time to learn and to be convinced and confident that it is a great aid for their business. It depends on the age of entrepreneurs, the type of business and on the background: it is important that they believe in digitalization.

-          It will certainly be profitable for women, but only if accompanied by proper business organization and redistribution of roles. Technology alone is not enough to optimize tasks and schedules.

-          I think “the sooner the better”. The longer women wait for learning digital skills and acquiring such tools and technology they need, the more expensive for them in terms of missed revenues, quality service to clients and useless costs to sustain. There is no point in case in waiting since the question is not “if the technology leap and revolution” will happen but rather “when their business, managed in a traditional way, will be put out of the market by more innovative competitors”.

 

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Conclusions from the Local Roundtables with Stakeholders

We organized our “round table with Stakeholders” in Vicenza, on Friday 4th March 2022, at “Senior Veneto” premises (address: Via Cristoforo Colombo nr. 7).

There were 15 participants:

-          Two persons from CDPZ (the Italian project partner);

-          Two persons from regional training centers;

-          One person from the Chamber of Commerce (connected online);

-          Two persons from the regional authority;

-          One ICT experts;

-          One person from the regional handcraft association (that is also a small business woman);

-          Four persons from associations and non profit organizations;

-          Two ladies (free lancers) that also took part into the train the trainers week in Sofia.

We  started with an overall Digi-Women project presentation (goals, contents, activities and main outputs), then each participant presented him/herself. After that, we focused on meeting topics (how curriculum could help the women entrepreneurs, what are the main obstacles, how public bodies could help them, how digital processes are effecting their daily work, etc.).

These are the main points and outcomes:

-          All participants underlined the fact that, in Italy, a fully equal opportunities approach is not still reached. Several regional and national policies are not developed enough for women entrepreneurs, too;

-          There are some special funds (i.e. a new “national fund for women entrepreneurs”) that will be launched in April/May 2022, that could – concretely – support their businesses;

-          We also discussed about “welfare state” and how government (at regional and national level) could support women also at a social and family level. But all these tools need a better definition for women needs too;

-          There is still a lack of infrastructure (at social/cultural and technical level) that do not permit an appreciable overall development (i.e. part time, flexible work, easier procedure, etc.);

-          Concerning the ICT and digital tools: some participants said that women are already involved in this kind of education (including STEM matters) with higher ranks in term of performance and knowledge. But at a cultural point of view, the labour market is not mature enough for this evolution;

-          Moreover, for micro business (that is the main project target) in many cases there is a lack of knowledge and, above all, a small budget for digital processes. In that case, a public (or institutional) help is needed, also in terms of training programs;

-          Bureaucracy is still strong and a real obstacle for women that would like to set up their own business. It is a matter of time and money; so a strong simplification could be really appreciated;

-          Concerning the project tools (curriculum and polity recommendations) all participants appreciated them. Moreover, some participants are available for the curriculum implementation (they already found some ESF – European Social Fund projects that could be done in a short time).

 

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Last change: 12/29/22.