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.