Charlene LambertCharlene’s Bubble September 2019

Welcome back to all!  I’m already unpacking the wool sweaters, and it’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, the weather was so hot that we could barely move. How refreshing, though, it is to come back to work after a break, and I hope that you had a wonderful summer.

September in the Netherlands is also a time of both cooling down (in temperatures) and heating up (in activity)! Traditionally the third Tuesday in September is known as Prinsjesdag (Princes’ Day) in The Hague. Among many activities, the highpoints are the beautiful procession of the Golden Carriage with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, followed by the important annual ‘Speech from the Throne’ in the Ridderzaal, outlining government initiatives and the budget for the coming year.

As a lead-up to this important day, every year the Dutch Women’s Council – NVR – holds its own ‘Princesses Day’ (Princessendag) to reflect on important topics facing women in the Netherlands. On Monday, September 9, WEP Vice Chairman Dymphna Elsink and I attended this event at the Nieuwspoort meeting rooms of the Dutch Parliament, where the chosen subject on the agenda was Women’s Entrepreneurship. Dutch government officials were also in the audience; listening, taking notes and sometimes speaking, and the presentations, panel discussion and Q&A were fascinating. The ideas discussed will be presented to the Dutch government and I would like to give you a preview and share some of the points that were raised.

Keynote speaker was Jacqueline Zuidweg of Zuidweg & Partners whose main job is to support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that are having financial problems. In her presentation, she discussed mainly the financial aspects of entrepreneurship and how people who get into financial problems don’t get the proper advice soon enough. While many of her clients have serious financial difficulties, it was interesting to learn that women make up only ±15% of her work!  She suggests that you should have a ‘Plan B’ in case your entrepreneurial venture doesn’t succeed. She also suggested that you give yourself a certain period – for example one year – to develop your business and see if it works. If it doesn’t you can fall back on your ‘Plan B’.

Some of the interesting statistics that Jacqueline cited include:

  • 47% of women (compared to 22% of men) choose entrepreneurship as a way of combining work and family life.
  • There are 1.5 million ZZPers (sole traders) in the Netherlands, of whom 36% are women.
  • The total number of starters in 2018 was 168,000, but the number of women starters dropped by 2%.
  • Cities in the Netherlands are required by law to provide services to SMEs facing financial difficulties, however there are only a few cities doing this. Because of this, ZZPers may get deeper and deeper into financial difficulties.

Dymphna and I were so pleased to meet Femke Vankooten (centre), newly elected Independent Member of Parliament, who is very interested in supporting women entrepreneurs. We all believe that more has to be done, in particular to ensure sick leave, unemployment benefits, minimum hourly rate and pensions, that will enable more women to consider entrepreneurship as a viable choice for their future careers.

The NVR has made a special attempt to reach out to women from all backgrounds and to include them in the NVR. Nenita la Rose, Chairwoman of the NVR (on right with microphone), and Councilor (PvdA) for Diversity, Care and Youth Care, Adult Education & Civic Integration, Poverty Policy & Debt Assistance in the City of Amsterdam – who also spoke at one of our recent Festive Lunches – is instrumental in this regard. The day was complete with it’s own beautiful throne, and special thanks were given to the organizers.

As WBII is a member of the NVR, Dympha and I congratulate the NVR on this excellent initiative, and will also stay in touch with them and with Femke to provide more information on the importance women’s entrepreneurship in the Netherlands, in particular for international women.