November 19 marks Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a global movement celebrating, supporting and focusing on the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs worldwide, and comprising a world-widenetwork in 144 countries that inspires more than 250 million women.
In Greece, public debate on female entrepreneurship focuses on current trends as well as future challenges, inevitably vis-à-vis the economic crisis the country is faced with in recent years.
Since joining the EU in 1981, Greece has taken numerous steps towards safeguarding gender balance. At an official level, the General Secretariat for Gender Equality constitutes the governmental agency responsible for planning and monitoring the implementation of policies on equality, mainly through co-financed Programmes and Actions.
Lina Tsaltampasi notes that although Greek women are among the most educated in Europe, they still struggle for equality in their working and business environments. Figures showthat the gender pay gap in Greece is the second largest in the EU, while female entrepreneurship is approximately only 20% of the total, despite the fact that female enterprises are proven more viable, competitive, and showing steadier growth than male enterprises.
According to a recent (2014) EU report on Female Entrepreneurship, around 30% of all entrepreneurs in Greece in 2012 were women, compared to 31% in the EU-28. The vast majority of these women entrepreneurs (82%) were solo entrepreneurs. Their mean net income (€11,245) was approximately the same as that of men entrepreneurs (€11,212) in Greece. Compared to the EU-28, however, their income was significantly lower.
The economic crisis has brought numerous changes, both at macro-structural level as well as in the everyday lives of people. Since the beginning of the crisis in 2008, women as well as men have been experiencing intense financial hardships, most notably increasing unemployment, lower earnings, declining welfare support, and higher taxes.
increased the number of Greek female startups, according to Despina Triakosani-Sultani, President of SEGE. In general, the crisis has motivated women to develop themselves by “fair and dignified means”, but she is not shy on the realities of being a female entrepreneur: “It means withstanding two years minimum to turn a profit. Given the realities, those without true entrepreneurial mettle become disillusioned and drop out”, she explains.
According to a recent opinion poll, 82% of Greek women entrepreneurs are satisfied with their decision to start their own businesses, but 89% point out the absence of support policies for female entrepreneurship in Greece, while 69% state that Greek society does not approve of them as it should.
Some success stories of women entrepreneurs are really encouraging: Niki Koutsiana, who created one of the biggest natural cosmetic brands in Europe, "APIVITA"; Xenia Kourtoglou, co-founder of e-satisfaction, who received the 2014 Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award; and Artemis Kosmidou-Konstantinidou, producer and exporter of her own sell-off line of home products "Inart" in Asia.
As writer William Arthur’s notes, great adversities cause some women to break and others to break records. Only the years following the end of the crisis will show which of the two will be the case for women in Greece.