CONFERENCE in the EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: Strengthening Women Entrepreneurship in the EU

  15 May 2012 14:00 – 16:00

  European Parliament @ Rue Wiertz 60, 1000 Brussels, Belgium


Which tools can the EU provide to women entrepreneurs with a migration background?

People who are willing to take the risks and commit to starting a new business or undertaking an existing one are not common enough in Europe. Additionally, even less women see entrepreneurship as an attractive alternative to employment or unemployment.

The European Commission has acknowledged the underprivileged statistics on women entrepreneurship as well as the necessity to encourage women entrepreneurs, finding ways to overcome the factors which discourage women from taking up the option of entrepreneurship.

Although the EU and the Member States have seen an upturn in women running businesses in the past years, it is evident that much more has to be done to overcome the factors which restrict women from starting their own businesses. It is obvious that there are certain factors which make entrepreneurship less attractive career path to women than it is to men. The situation is even more upsetting when the ethnic entrepreneurship is concerned. Even though there are no statistics available, it is self-evident that the number of female Turkish entrepreneurs in Europe is very small as compared with their male counterparts.

UNITEE is convinced it is within our responsibility to contribute towards narrowing the gender gap in entrepreneurship and therefore, we would like to discuss and explore this issue further. We believe this conference will be a forum for women entrepreneurs to learn more about the opportunities that the EU provides to foster successful women entrepreneurship. The participants will also have  chance to share their experiences with fellow experienced and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Date: 15 May 2012, 2pm-4pm

Venue: European Parliament

Hosts: MEP Barbara Matera and MEP Isabelle Durant


2 pm –  Introductory speech – Ms Barbara Matera, MEP

2.10 pm – Ms Isabelle Durant, MEP
2.20 pm – Dr Adem Kumcu, President of UNITEE
2.30 pm – Ms Madi Sharma, Member of the EESC – moderator
2. 40 pm- Mr Marko Curavic, Head of Unit Entrepreneurship, DG Enterprise and Industry

2.50 pm- Panel Discussion
Ms Hatice Camdere, Entrepreneur Camdere Consulting
Ms Gesine Meißner, MEP
Ms Iris Kronenbitter, Director of the National Agency for Women Start-up Activities and Services, Germany
3.20- 3.45- Q&A

3.45 – 4 pm – Closing speech
Mr Ali Babacan, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister for Economy

4pm – Networking Cocktail


On Tuesday 15 May, the European-Turkish Business Confederation (UNITEE) held a conference at the European Parliament entitled ‘Strengthening Women’s Business Leadership in the EU: A focus on Women from a Migrant Background’. The conference was organised with the aim of examining and discussing the obstacles faced by women active in the business environment, who wish to grow their enterprise or advance through the ranks of the corporate world. The conference focused in particular on the barriers encountered by women from an immigrant or ethnic minority background, wishing to enter the business world and establish their own enterprise.

The conference was attended by over two-hundred and eighty established and aspiring women entrepreneurs from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and further afield shared their experiences and insights with their fellow participants. The conference was addressed by a broad panel of speakers from the worlds of business, politics and community activism. The conference was hosted by the Vice President of the European Parliament Ms Isabelle Durant, German MEP Ms Gesine Meißner, and Italian MEP Ms Barbara Matera who joined the conference via video-link from Rome. Additional speakers included: Mr Ali Babacan, the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Ms Madi Sharma, a member of the European Economic and Social Committee, Dr. Adem Kumcu, President of UNITEE and also Mr Marko Curavic, Head of Unit for Entrepreneurship at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry.

Welcoming the participants to the European Parliament, Vice President Isabelle Durant pointed out that only one in ten women in Europe are entrepreneurs whereas the situation for men is one in four. Drawing the conference’s attention to the fact that the Turkish immigrant diaspora have now been in Europe for more than fifty years, Ms Durant also said that work must be undertaken to “organise a framework to support all the activities of the women diaspora in Europe”. Referring to the issue of gender quotas, Ms Barbara Matera pointed out that studies have shown companies with a gender balance on among their senior management tend to perform better in the business world. Ms Hatice Camdere, a German consultant of Turkish origin said that in her experience, being a migrant is not a disadvantage in business, but rather an advantage. Responding to the question of whether there are differences between women business leaders and women policy makers, German MEP Gesine Meiβner pointed out that women are “better at crisis management and multi-tasking roles”.

In his speech to the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan outlined some of the measures that have been undertaken by the Turkish government to support women entrepreneurs, such as new protocols recently signed by the family and science ministries to support women in the business environment. Mr Babacan also mentioned that the government has taken steps to ensure that children attend school at a younger age and that financial incentives are given to parents to ensure that girls attend school for longer. Opening his speech with the observation that women are under-represented in almost every decision-making capacity throughout Europe, UNITEE President Mr Adem Kumcu said that considering the challenges we are facing now and in the future, “Europe will need more than ever the talents of all its citizens whether male, female, immigrant or native born”. Mr Kumcu emphasised that women entrepreneurs in particular will be “crucial to the future competitiveness of the European economy.” Mr Kumcu also referred to in-house research conducted by UNITEE which showed that immigrant women are far more likely to become entrepreneurs than native born women. Following the speeches, there was a panel discussion during which the conference participants enthusiastically engaged with the speakers, posing questions and sharing their own personal experiences in the business world.