Initiatives to promote women’s entrepreneurship

– An international survey of knowledge about measures in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain and Germany

Growth Analysis has been given a special government commission to evaluate parts of the Promote Women's Entrepreneurship programme, conducted by the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, for the period 2011-2014. In its evaluation, Growth Analysis will consider experiences of creating similar initiatives in other countries and their results and impact.

The present report constitutes a basis for this kind of international knowledge survey with a focus on on-going and recently concluded programmes to promote women’s entrepreneurship in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain and Germany. The international knowledge survey was made during the winter 2013/2014 and is based on interviews with some 20 experts (researchers and officials) in Sweden and other countries, and document studies.

The survey shows that all countries have taken initiatives to promote women’s entrepreneurship but these have varied widely regarding design and scope. In comparison with initiatives in other countries, Sweden’s Promote Women’s Entrepreneurship programme is extensive both in duration and invested financial resources. The knowledge survey shows that systematised knowledge of the impact of measures to promote women’s entrepreneurship is generally lacking, This provides an opportunity for Growth Analysis to set a good international example with the coming impact assessment.  At the same time, reforms such as tax deductions for domestic services, reduced VAT rates for restaurants and catering services and the introduction of the Act on Free Choice Systems have had an effect on women entrepreneurs in various industries and sectors. This means that expectations regarding the programme’s impacts must be reasonable, as must expectations of what the impact assessment will show.

In Sweden, the Promote Women’s Entrepreneurship programme has been running since 2007, focused on promoting entrepreneurship among women for growth and renewal in trade and industry. The programme operates within the framework of industry policy  and contains measures to strengthen entrepreneurship, for example business counselling and coaching. Much of the programme’s practical implementation is in the hands of the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, which funds projects run by enterprise-promoting actors. The programme also has the ambition to influence the general enterprise-promoting system and in the long-term will be characterised by equal prerequisites for women and men to set up and run companies. A goal attainment assessment of the programme has been made with a focus on participating companies’ outcome and results and the programme’s implementation.

Denmark has a nationally initiated action plan focused on increasing women’s entrepreneurship. The action plan has a clear focus on strengthening individuals. Women are considered a resource that is not exploited to a sufficient degree and thus need to be given greater opportunities. The measures implemented in the action plan are concrete measures (in the form of concrete action in practice) and are aimed at strengthening women’s competence, access to networks and good examples in order to promote entrepreneurship. The initiative has been analysed in a final report but there does not seem to be any evaluation that considers whether it was successful.

The Netherlands has no specific national initiative for women’s entrepreneurship; although a number of delimited initiatives have been implemented at national level in recent years have focused on making women who run companies more visible. Initiatives for entrepreneurship are taken within the framework of the general economic policy, in which simplified regulations is an important element. Continuous monitoring is made of development in trade and industry and also of specific interventions. Within the industry policy area a specific initiative is going on to develop the methodology for and the ambitions of evaluations of economic instruments.

Norway has a national action plan, aiming to promote women’s entrepreneurship, primarily motivated as contributing to equality and growth. It was developed in collaboration between seven different ministries and contains twelve different measures that are being implemented inside existing initiatives and programmes in organisations involved in entrepreneurship and innovation.  The action plan links together entrepreneurship with men’s and women’s “work-life balance” and has contributed to changes to rules and regulations concerning men’s parental leave. The Norwegian action plan was evaluated at its half-way point.

Great Britain has no initiatives linked to women’s entrepreneurship at the national level. In 2003, a strategic regulatory framework was drawn up that focused on increasing women’s entrepreneurship with ambitious goals regarding both input and output. The idea behind the initiative was to contribute to growth and was subordinate to the country’s industry policy. The national ambitions were implemented through regional development centres that arranged activities for women who wanted to set up or develop their companies. The initiative is now defunct and the regional development centres have been closed down. The present measures directed at women’s entrepreneurship are run by private initiatives in the form of networks for women.

Germany is currently implementing initiatives for women’s entrepreneurship through a special national agency, the Bundesweite Gründerinnenagentur [The National Agency for Women Start-ups Activities], BGA, which was set up jointly by three different ministries. The aim is to promote both growth and equality through the BGA which can be considered a pilot for issues concerning women’s entrepreneurship. There is also an ambition to promote  regional development through the BGA’s activities. BGA operates at the national, regional and local level and collaborates with other parties regionally to promote women’s entrepreneurship through information, counselling and promotion of networks. Follow-ups are made of individual projects but there do not seem to any national compilations of what the agency’s initiatives lead to.

All six countries conduct basic monitoring of, for example, the degree to which women run companies and in what industries. Since the Scandinavian countries are the ones that have most distinctly implemented specific initiatives to promote women’s entrepreneurship, it is also in these countries that monitoring and/or evaluations of the measures have been made.

How the target group, i.e. women, have been influenced by policy measures in the general entrepreneurship and industry policies seems largely to depend on the degree of awareness of and interest in the policy measures’ consequences in a gender perspective.

Initiatives to promote women’s entrepreneurship – An international survey of knowledge about measures in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain and Germany

Serial number: PM 2014:11

Reference number: 2013/001

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