This article is part of Amway’s ‘Driving Entrepreneurship in Europe’ Knowledge Network
The Belgian minister for the middle classes, entrepreneurs, small and medium enterprises, agriculture and social integration, Willy Borsus prepared a plan that supports women in entrepreneurship in their daily life, and especially during maternity leave.
“I want to support and further strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit, still too absent today in Belgium, but also to reduce barriers to women’s entrepreneurship and, thereby, boost society. New measures are essential, despite the difficult budgetary context, if we are to restore growth and provide SMEs, and of course to women entrepreneurs, a more favorable regulatory framework.” said Borsus.
In Belgium, women represent only 33% of entrepreneurs. This percentage has evolved very little over the past five years (over 1%). Furthermore, women represent 23% of employers, which is slightly below the European average of 26%.
Several civil society organisations pointed out that 51% of entrepreneurial women encounter difficulties in combining work and family life, that maternity leave for them was too short, that 92% of entrepreneurial women wish to exercise their professional activity, at least partially, during maternity leave, and that during maternity leave they still have to pay social contribution.
Therefore, the plan revolves around 4 points:
First, the plan will put in place a barometer of women’s entrepreneurship to centralize information about their status and its evolution in order to measure the impact of the initiatives and have a clear idea of what needs to be done.
Second, measures will be taken to enhance the social status of entrepreneurs, essentially with regards to maternity and the reconciliation of private and family life. Maternity leave for entrepreneurial women will be extended to 4 weeks with the possibility of taking each week separately or part time. In addition, social contributions will be exempted for three months after the birth and financial support will be allocated. Special attention will also be given to improve the flexibility of childcare systems.
Third, it aspires to answer to specific problems faced by women in connection with the financing of their company. Therefore it will focus on rising awareness in the banking sector about the specificities of women’s entrepreneurship and encourage women to make use of finance professionals to build their enterprise.
Finally, the plan aims at rising awareness, promote training and foster education of young people and women, who are starting a business or are planning to do so, as it is crucial to spread the entrepreneurial motivation.
Commenting on this new initiative, Maggie De Block, the Belgian minister of social affairs and public health said: “entrepreneurial women will be able to better take care of their babies and at the same time continue to serves their clients and companies. Giving a protective status is crucial if we want to encourage women’s entrepreneurship.”
“Our country needs more entrepreneurs in general. However, we found that certain obstacles exist that discourage the project to undertake of many women, particularly in connection with reconciling their professional life with motherhood. IZEO fundamentally welcomes these measures, which should firstly make life easier for future entrepreneurial moms and also encourage women’s entrepreneurship, which can only be beneficial economically and socially”, said Miguel Van Keirsbilck, the secretary general of IZEO, the civil society movement of entrepreneurs in Belgium.