By Charlene Lambert
On Tuesday, April 22, Lisa Hall and I traveled to Brussels to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP).
WBII recently joined WEP in order to exchange information and experience on the subject of women’s entrepreneurship, and to benchmark our organization with others in Europe.
WEP is the leading European women’s entrepreneurship network, which was started in 2013 as a platform representing organizations, researchers, companies and foundations interested in women’s entrepreneurship.
Although the Annual General Meeting (AGM) was planned several months in advance, the general strike announced just a few days before April 22 caused us to reconsider our trip, as all public transportation was halted on that day. We decided to try to go anyway, and drove to Brussels by car. Despite the heavy traffic, we are pleased that we made the effort to attend.
WEP maintains that women’s entrepreneurship is the largest, unexploited source of economic growth, and yet it is being neglected and sidelined. Furthermore, they believe that there is an urgent and real need to encourage women’s entrepreneurship, both at governmental levels, with educational programmes and access to financial support, and at a societal level, with the need to boost entrepreneurial culture and make entrepreneurship an attractive, sound business option for women.
WEP’s sponsor is the European Direct Selling organization Seldia, which is based in Brussels. They provide the secretariat and administrative support for the members. Over the past few years, WEP has expanded it’s membership, and recently decided to move forward by changing the WEP platform into a foundation. This process is now being finalized. WEP has an impressive list of members from all over Europe.
The Importance of Innovation for Women Entrepreneurs
Following the AGM, we enjoyed a lunch-debate on the topic of: The Importance of Innovation for Women Entrepreneurs.
The lunch-debate was hosted by Ms. Marian Harkin (Ireland), Member of The European Parliament, Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, and Co-Hosted by Mr. Sean Kelly (Ireland), Member of the European Parliament, Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.
Other speakers included Ms. Grazia Rendo, Chairwoman of WEP, Mr. Peter Dröll, Director, Innovation Union and European Research Area at EU Commission’s Research & Innovation Department, and Ms. Laura Lecci of the European Business and Innovation Centre Network (EBN)
A common theme throughout their talks was the importance of the contribution of women entrepreneurs to the talent, creativity and economy of Europe, and the need to do more to develop this valuable resource.
Peter Droll, EU stated: ‘It’s a huge loss that 63% of women surveyed in a recent study said that it never crossed their minds to be an entrepreneur’. He talked about the importance of innovation, which he defined as being ‘a new or significantly improved product, process or business model’.
I thought to myself, how can we make our own businesses more innovative, and encourage and support our WBII members to do the same?
Sustainable and Innovative
On our drive back home, also with quite heavy traffic (thanks, Lisa, for the impeccable driving!), we were full of ideas about how we can continue to move the WBII forward in ways that can make it more relevant to our members, and more sustainable and innovative in the longer term.
We met some stimulating contacts in Brussels, and as a result, are looking to reach out and build on our new WEP network, to engage with the members, and collectively share ideas and experience for future joint activities.