European Union Equivocates on Gender Equality

In summary, one could say that it was one step forward, one step sideways during European Union meetings in Brussels recently. The week of October 15 saw meetings at the EU celebrating SME Week, and at least one positive outcome of note – the signing of an agreement between the EU and UN Women to launch a joint regional program for women’s empowerment in North Africa, Spring Forward for Women. (In photo below, UN Woman Deputy Executive Director John Hendra (left) and European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Füle (right) sign the agreement).

They also issued a warm and fuzzy news release calling for a higher level of women’s entrepreneurship and job creation, and calling attention to their Women’s Entrepreneurship Ambassador program (a wonderful example that should be emulated elsewhere, in my view).

However, the news coming out of that week was a retreat from a proposal to impose a 40% quota on female representation on the boards of publicly-traded companies in Europe. The proposal has (quelle suprise!) encountered resistance from some governments, and certainly from the corporations themselves. The vote has been postponed, and may be watered down to a lower level or to voluntary targets.

Change is never easy, even when the results (as research has shown) will be better decision-making, higher employee retention, and higher profits and investor ROI.

Two Womenabling Initiatives of Note in Europe

Womenable has come across two very interesting and womenabling initiatives in Europe to share with you:

  • An initiative labeled “WINNET8“, subtitled “Women Resource Centers, an Innovation System for Gender Equal Growth in Europe.” This eight-country effort is focused on improving women’s labor market participation by focusing on entrepreneurship development, innovation, and occupational segregation. They’ve been busy with some organizational meetings and workshops, which are summarized on their web site; and
  • female figure on map of Europe

  • GENDERA, short for “Gender Debate in the European Research Area,” which is focused on increasing gender awareness in research and gender diversity among researchers. As we well know, adding women’s voices and perspectives to any endeavor increases the richness of outcomes in so many ways.

Click on the links above to learn more about these two powerful collaborations. Kudos to those behind them. You go, girls: you have earned a spot on Womenable’s Links to Other Womenablers list!

Assessing the State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Europe

A newly-discovered report from the European Microfinance Network takes a comparative look at the environment for women’s enterprise development in eight countries – assessing relative levels of gender equality on six dimensions – and highlighting good practices in support for women’s entrepreneurship. It’s definitely worth a read, and worth a spot on your womenabling reference shelf.

The report, “Fostering gender equality: Meeting the entrepreneurship and microfinance challenge,” takes a look at the state of affairs for women’s enterprise development in eight countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Slovakia, Spain and the UK), and finds only average progress on these six dimensions:

  • general national context for entrepreneurship,
  • gender equality in society,
  • gender equality in labor market inclusion,
  • gender equality in entrepreneurship,
  • gender equality in support structures for entrepreneurship, and
  • gender equality in access to finance.

The countries are rated most highly on general gender equality in society, and lowest on support structures for women’s enterprise development. There was the most variability in ranking among the eight countries on the access to finance dimension. Scores are calibrated on a 1-5 scale. In no country and on no dimension did any country garner a 4 or higher.

One of the best features of the 76-page report is its reference to good practices in the countries studied. Some of the policies and practices that are highlighted include:

The report also contains a number of very useful policy and practice recommendations, targeted to policy makers, practitioners, finance providers, and researchers.

For more information on the European Microfinance Network, and to download the report, click on the links above. Thanks go to, a wonderful development news aggregator, for highlighting this report.