Women entrepreneurship – an untapped potential

16 Oct 2013

imageWoman entrepreneur from Mojkovac, Montenegro; Photo: UNDP Montenegro

In most economies around the world, fewer women than men start and run businesses. In the EU, women make only a third of entrepreneurs though they account for over half of the population and they are at least as well educated as men. Statistics in Montenegro are even more striking: women own only 9.6 percent of enterprises. This places Montenegro not only behind EU, but behind other countries in the region as well (for example, in Serbia 25% of entrepreneurs are women). Clearly, there is a significant untapped human potential that could boost economic growth and create much needed new jobs.

Montenegro has made important initial steps towards economic empowerment of women and overall gender equality. Legal and institutional framework with gender perspective have been established and policies and strategic documents adopted. However, statistics show that women are still not sufficiently recognized as equal players in economic arena. The existing gap between women and men entrepreneurs is an important argument in favour of special programmes supporting women’s entrepreneurship. Ministry for Human and Minority Rights continues with implementation of legislation and strategies in the field of gender equality, through Gender Programme IPA 2010 carried out by the Ministry, UNDP in Montenegro and the Delegation of the European Union.

“Women's businesses - the potential of the Montenegrin economy” was the main topic of the conference geared towards economic strengthening of women. The Union of Employers (UE), International Labour Organization (ILO), Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Association of Business Women in Montenegro co-organized this conference together with the Gender Programme IPA 2010. Organizers wanted to make known findings of the report “Assessment of environment for female entrepreneurship in Montenegro”, recently conducted by ILO and UE.  According to the report, women are primarily seen in the context of the traditional roles which they have as wives and mothers and as a result they can’t exercise entrepreneurial activity without interference. Also, gender segregation in educational profiles, although declinig, is still present. One of the biggest barriers for starting up business is lack of funds, since majority of women in Montenegro does not have its own property and therefore are unable to get a loan. This strategic document identified these and other challenges that women entrepreneurs face and provided guidelines for future measures that will ensure equal status of women in business.

Women entrepreneurs are not sufficiently recognized as equal players in the economic field. According to Mr. Predrag Mitrović, President of the Union of Employers, this affects adversely women’s position at startup and later development of their own business. “To go to the next level of development of women’s businesses, greater institutional support is required. It’s only then that the entrepreneurial potential of women can fully contribute to the development of a modern economy and society,” said Mr. Mitrović.

EU believes that Montenegro should have a precise strategy for the development of women’s business. Ms. Dawn Adie Baird, from the EU Delegation to Montenegro said: “That kind of strategy would have two objectives. One is to change the social context in terms of encouraging women to develop and use their potential. On the other side, the goal would be to introduce affirmative measures like mentorship, active and stimulative measures for women employment, especially designed credit lines and other financial instruments, etc.”

Mr. Rastislav Vrbensky, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro said that report presented at the conference, as well as Survey about Women entrepreneurship in Montenegro, conducted earlier within the Gender Equality Program IPA 2010, confirms that the goal of gender equality in the economic domain hasn’t been achieved yet. “Firstly, it is important that the programmes and activities related to the development of women's entrepreneurship lay in common, connected and systematic national strategic framework. Montenegro should have clear and strong strategy for development of women entrepreneurship, in which responsible institutions will get specific tasks related to this, and the state will need to allocate adequate financial resources. The document must have clear performance indicators, and its implementation should be regularly monitored and evaluated.”

And what do women entrepreneurs consider as main obstacle for them? According to Ms. Ljubica Kostić-Bukarica “Some traditional stereotypes that restrict women in society are quite present here in Montenegro. A woman is, above all, a mother and housewife. Somehow, those roles have been imposed to them and these stereotypes still restrict. Here, rather a small percentage of women own property. The owners are mostly men, and this prevents women taking loans that would provide the necessary collateral to start their own business.”

Key message of the conference is that there is a need to support women entrepreneurs through policies and adequate institutions in many areas, such as education and training, access to credit and financing, information, business networks and new technologies. The report “Assessment of the environment for women entrepreneurship in Montenegro” is of great value for decision makers in the process of creating a future strategy for creation of an encouraging environment for women entrepreneurship and by this, a stronger economy.