While visiting the Young Foundation in London, this summer we met EmakumeEkin, a wonderful team of women from Bilbao who are committed to foster women entrepreneurship in Europe. Here is an interview in which they highlight their engagement as a social venture.
First of all, what does EmakumeEkin mean in the Basque language and why you chose this name? By the way, how did it all start?
“EmakumeEkin” has a double meaning. On the one hand, Emakume means woman and Ekin means undertake, so those two words mean something like “Entrepreneur Women”. However, together, in a single word, Emakumeekin means “With Women”.
The idea started working on programs for entrepreneurs. We felt that there was a gender difference in entrepreneurship. We felt that, although in some aspects we face the same problems, women are less confident about their possibilities. In addition, there are gender responsabilities that are an important factor to take into account. In those programes, this factor was not taken into account. We analised some European research studies on the subject, we contacted other organizations that had developed programs to support entrepreneur women, and at the end, we decided to develop our own program with all information we gathered.
What are the main activities in which EmakumeEkin is involved? How do you manage to deal with all of them as a social venture?
In collaboration with institutions and other organisations with similar goals, we offer a training course for entrepreneur women. Every year, around 35 women take part in this project. We also organise networking events in order to foster contacts and synergies. We have developed our own methodology applied to workshops, courses and to any activity requested or suggested by our associates.
On the other hand, we sincerely believe in the support that comes from external collaborations, so we work in establishing connections with women associations all over the world. Nowadays we are working hard in our economic sustainability. This is our main challenge.
Why we need a gender perspective to promote business amongst women? According to your experience, which are the main results of this strategy?
Because there is a gender difference. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, in their 2012 Women Report, highlighted this fact. The European Commission is working to overcome women barriers in the entrepreneurship world. They literally say: “female creativity and entrepreneurial potential are an under-exploited source of economic growth and jobs that should be further developed”. We need all women talent to be a better society. Other societies that have invested in promoting women positions in the entrepreurial world, as Norway, are satisfied with the results. One of their ministers mentioned, for instance, that the key of their economic growth was not only oil but women involvement into economic and political fields.
In relation to results, one of our challenges is to measure the impact of our work. We know, through different enquiries and personal interviews that our work is useful in many ways for the women taking part in the initiative, but we need quantitative measures.
Setting up a new business in Southern Europe is probably more challenging than elsewhere. What are your feelings about the future of our countries within the European Union?
We are quite optimistic in general. Otherwise, we would not have started a social entreprise 🙂 . Europe has been a pioneer in Human and Social Rights and needs to take advantage of the diversity and the multiculturalims to learn new ways.
EmakumeEkin was born two years ago in Bilbao with the aim to support and promote women entrepreneurship. In this two years it focused its efforts on the development of a women friendly entrepreneurial ecosystem, fostering networks and providing empowering tools to its community.