Breaking barriers: empowering women in finance for economic growth

The EESC's Section for Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO) held a debate on 15 November addressing gender disparities in access to financial markets. Studies highlight these gaps, sparking ongoing debates as to their causes. Women-led EU businesses receive only 2% of venture capital, apply for fewer loans and invest cautiously. The talks explored how these disparities affected society and the economy and searched for policy solutions.

Addressing the gender gap in financial markets access isn't solely about fairness; it's also about seizing substantial economic prospects in Europe, declared the chairwoman, EESC ECO Section member Elena Calistru, launching the debate.

DG Growth's Agnieszka Wojdyr presented alarming statistics demonstrating the persistent disparity in venture capital (VC) funding between men and women. Factors such as fewer women in self-employment, smaller financing requests, biased evaluations favouring male-presented pitches, and a predominantly male presence in VC decision-making roles contributed to this problem. Studies also revealed that gender diverse teams tended to invest in sustainable areas and often outperformed their male counterparts. The European Commission (EC) representative outlined the EC's strategy for 2020-2025, combining gender mainstreaming with targeted actions, such as equalising procurement opportunities between men and women.

David Halabisky, from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), identified the gender gap's pervasive nature globally, citing social expectations that perpetuated the salary gap and demonstrated the need to challenge these norms. Policy solutions proposed by the OECD included microfinance, direct funding instruments for growth-oriented women entrepreneurs, and the need for better gender-disaggregated data to inform policy.

The private sector's perspective from European Business Angel Network (EBAN) highlighted the repercussions of unequal access to finance, such as missed investment opportunities, reduced diversity in decision-making, and slower economic growth. The organisation's Vice-President, Selma Prodanovic, stressed the need to create a gender-balanced ecosystem, focusing on competence rather than gender, and transforming perceptions about women's capabilities. Closing the gap isn't about removing men from specific roles in companies and organisations. It's about expanding the pool of economic opportunities. In 2022, EBAN committed itself in a manifesto to promoting gender equality in the world of angel investing, where private investors focused on financing small business ventures in exchange for equity.

Overall, the conference at the EESC emphasised seeing women in business as a solution, urging a change in perception to unlock economic opportunities for everyone.


Breaking barriers: empowering women in finance for economic growth