This article is part of our special report Small Business:driving EU growth?.
Women are under-represented in SME-funding despite being best positioned to exploit internet technology and social media to create 'local' SMEs, according to MEPs.
UK Conservative MEPs Marina Yannakoudakis and Vicky Ford called for more support to allow working mothers and other women to start up or grow their SME at their party's annual conference in Manchester yesterday, echoing similar calls made in the European Parliament.
Yannakoudakis recently drafted a report adopted by the European Parliament calling for seminars and training sessions to help women exploit the European Progress Microfinance Facility, a fund designed to help women and other under-represented groups.
The call came as new data supported the view that women – and especially those in rural areas – are better placed than men to exploit social media and the internet to set up businesses.
Women better placed to exploit social-media marketing
The data revealed this week by Boston Consulting Group and commissioned by Google suggested that the key to successful entrepreneurship in internet-based business requires a combination of far-flung marketing combined with tight 'local' sales offering, better suited to women.
Examples include Scotweb, a company that sells Scottish tartan fabrics successfully to a large foreign clientele with direct or distant roots in the UK country.
Wiggly Wigglers – a rural on-line service based in the UK selling sustainable gardening services – is an example of a business that has exploited social media to boost its online sales products including garden worms, which it sends by mail to customers.
Founder Heather Gorringe says that in farming and rural communities women are taking the lead in creating entrepreneurial business because the marketing skills required to use social media are well suited to female 'gossip' culture.
She told EURACTIV that among farming communities “it is the women in the family who are using Facebook and Twitter, and it is easier for women to handle sales in this environment than in the traditional face-to-face sales model.”
Do not favour some businesses over others, cautions entrepreneur
The internet also makes it easier for them to create businesses and deal with sales to their own time schedules, she said.
She cautioned against 'preferential treatment' for women's internet businesses, however, saying that favouring businesses disproportionately could endanger existing companies.
But Yannakoudakis told EURACTIV that women were among the first wave of pioneers who started up their own on-line businesses and their numbers are are steadily increasing.
“The EU needs to encourage growth and jobs by bringing women into more diverse job sectors, including IT,” she added.
“As a mother and a businesswoman, I know how daunting setting up a small business can be. Giving women fair access to start-up and expansion grants, while targeting women with the right information about how to launch a business can help produce a new generation of women entrepreneurs, ” UK Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis told a meeting at her party's annual conference in Manchester.
On 1 June 2005, the European Commission presented an i2010 action plan, which is still in force today. Entitled 'A European information society for growth and employment', this new strategic framework defines the general policy guidelines for information society and media.
One of the priorities of i2010 is to avoid a 'digital divide' between the richest and poorest regions in the EU – which have less access to the Internet or new digital services – and between member states.
For his second term in office, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso created a new 'digital agenda' portfolio, which was handed to Neelie Kroes.
Kroes was competition commissioner in the previous EU executive and led antitrust investigations into ICT industry giants Intel and Microsoft, which were fined record amounts on antitrust charges.
- European Commission Small and Medium-sized enterprises
- European CommissionWES - the European network to promote women's entrepreneurship