Athens, 13 March 2008
Madam President of IAGME,
Mr. President of the Hellenic Management Association
Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I begin by thanking most warmly the President of IAGME, Mrs. Angelina Mihailidou, for her invitation to take part in today’s event.
I should like to take this opportunity to speak about the Ministry of Development’s Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’, now reaching its conclusion, and our new Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship’-EPAN II, for the period 2007-2013. The fact is, you see, that both these Programmes have direct links with the issue of support for entrepreneurship among women.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The campaign for equal rights under the law and participation in society on equal terms is an ongoing process, since social and economic equality of the two sexes is a continuous objective of the collective movements which influence the planning of specific policies.
Reports from the UN and studies prepared for community policymakers indicate that differences between men and women in access to the economy in general, and the labour market in particular, continue to exist.
Here in Greece measures have been taken in the last few years to remove the obstacles to the professional advancement of women and to help them find their place in the labour market. Today I intend to speak to you about fostering entrepreneurship among women.
There have been particularly encouraging results from a recent study by the Observatory of the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research into women’s entrepreneurship in Greece.
The data they collected showed that involvement by women in overall business activity in Greece is higher than in any other member country of the European Union, which demonstrates the powerful dynamics that women have developed in our country.
The same study showed that Greek businesswomen perform better than their male colleagues; more of them have university degrees and they make more use of the new technologies.
To summarize the report’s findings: business enterprises by women not only do not lag behind those run by men but often do much better, offering indisputably valuable support to the growth of the Greek economy.
It was precisely to encourage this trend that the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’ laid such emphasis on entrepreneurship among women.
- Offering incentives to start-up business activities.
- Helping to create new, contemporary and viable businesses in the areas of processing, services and e-commerce.
- Promoting the talents of women, which had been too long overlooked in many areas of business activity.
To look at the figures for a moment: in all four cycles of the Programme focusing on female entrepreneurship, 4,529 proposals were submitted, of which 2,875 were included for funding, i.e. an inclusion success rate of 63%.
And to show the significance attached to female entrepreneurship it should suffice to mention that the relevant actions have received funding in the order of 228 m Euro.
Field research done on a sample of women who participated in the specific actions, as well as EOMMEX, the Hellenic Organisation for SMEs and Crafts, the agency responsible for implementing the actions, has yielded some fascinating results.
The study showed that:
- The response among women interested in the actions was high and continually growing. In the fourth cycle 8,000 folders of informational material were distributed, while more than twice as many proposals were submitted as in the three preceding cycles.
- Research among the final recipients – women entrepreneurs who had completed their co-funded business plans – showed that the support they had received under the Programme had been of vital significance in realizing their projects. Specifically: for 7 out of 10 women the financial support they had secured was deemed significant, while for 3 out of 10 it was considered critical. What is more, although the research was carried out a little too early to be sure of this, the new businesses seem to have excellent chances of proving viable in the long term.
- The beneficiaries of Programme grants declared that the support of specialist consultants had been of vital assistance in aspects of starting up a new business and in implementing the investment project.
- More than half the entrepreneurs had learned about the action themselves, while the rest had been informed indirectly via consultants.
- Two out of three entrepreneurs advise future candidates for inclusion to gather as much information as they can as early as they can.
- Seven out of ten are satisfied with the time taken for evaluation, but not with the time taken for certification of spending and payments.
- Two thirds of the women regard the volume of documentation and data required as excessive (here we should point out that in the subsequent cycles – the research was conducted over the two first cycles – there was a significant reduction in the amount of documentation required).
The Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’ also provided indirect support for female entrepreneurship through other actions, notably those involving the funding of training, re-education and skills schemes for the unemployed, office employees, researchers at early stages in their business careers, etc. Some 20,000 women were involved in actions of this sort.
The Programme also supported women through the projects funded via the General Secretariat for Research and Technology. I shall cite here the ‘Programme to Support Research Personnel’ (PENED), implemented by the GSRT, which assists research projects offering training opportunities for young researchers where they can complete a doctoral thesis. In the first invitation for this programme positive discrimination was introduced for women doctoral candidates (by giving extra points in evaluation of their proposals). That particular invitation has led to 177 projects being implemented, with women doctoral candidates accounting for significantly more than 50% of the whole group (estimated number of women doctoral candidates: 265 out of a total of 467).
The EPAN has also provided funding for the operation of a Network of Women Researchers (PERIKTIONI), which cooperates with the European Union and the individual member states to exchange best practices and promote equal opportunities in research and technological development.
The purpose of the ‘Network’,in which women scientists, researchers, representatives of women’s organizations and ministries etc. participate, is the exchange of experiences and the undertaking of initiatives to ensure that equality issues are properly represented in R&TD policies.
The relevant activities are focused on three areas:
- Exploration of issues related to the role and position of women in Greek research.
- Development of good practices and implementation of equal opportunities for women in research and technology.
- Communication activities to raise awareness of discrimination against women in this sector among the public and special groups.
The ‘Periktioni’ Network has contributed to monitoring:
- Skill gaps
- The position of research in the labour market
- Structural trends in employment in the research sector on a gender basis
- Trends in remunerations
The Network is a valuable tool for finding and propagating ideas, methods, information and proposals in support of human resources – on the national, operational and sectoral levels.
Within this framework an initiative of substantial importance was the promotion of an amendment to the new law, passed recently, involving the restructuring of the system of organization and administration of research, technology and innovation. The amendment introduced positive discrimination in favour of women with a 1/3 mandatory quota for women in the various councils and committees overseeing research activity.
This proposal, which was documented, advocated and supported in the media by women from the Network, is now entered on the statute book. It was remarkable to see how much attention the issue received during discussion of the relevant clause – the only one to be passed without a single dissenting vote.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the intervening period we have introduced a new development model, built on sound foundations, and we are continuing to consolidate it.
For the new Programming Period 2007-2013 we have set our standards even higher than before, and look forward to continued successful progress.
In the area of support for women we have made use of the experience gained from implementation of the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’ and taken into consideration proposals from the General Secretariat for Equality and women’s organizations. We are focusing our attention and interest on the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship, with new actions, measures and initiatives.
(In the area, specifically, of research and technology, the relevant actions (of the PERIKTIONI type) will be supported under the Operational Programme ‘Development of Human Resources’.
We are doing our utmost to improve the present situation and to ensure a brighter future, for all Greeks – women and men.
We are moving ahead, through continual consultation and constructive dialogue, with the changes and reforms demanded by society itself.
The contemporary Greek woman has an important part to play and a significant contribution to make to this undertaking:
- She has the knowledge, intuition and vision required by the new world we are living in.
- She has the courage, will and spirit required for the creation of new perspectives and prospects.
- She has the sensitivity our society needs to cultivate.
- She has the strength to move forward and demand, on behalf of us all, a more fair and just future.
I thank you for your attention.