Updated: May 25, 2020
In March, to celebrate World Women's Day, we talked about women's role and we realized that there is still a long way to go in order to achieve gender equality. Today, we live in a time of contradictions: in Europe there are more women (52%) than men, however women represent only one third of the European Union's self-employed workers. Men continue to hold leadership and managerial positions in companies. The reasons for this are complex and diverse, but the main explanation has to do with women's own disbelief towards entrepreneurship. Most women tend to simply not believe that leadership is for them. Which, in our opinion, is not accurate. In our portfolio of startups we have several examples of female CEOs who prove that female talent can contribute to the success of a business and to generate economic value. Actually, out of the 4 exits BGI had, 2 had women founders/CEOs, even if the majority of our startups are men led. Of course, you can also think of many administrative and middle management positions filled by smart, competent women. However, examples quickly fade near the top of organizations.
In the agri-food sector, the scenario is identical. Especially in the rural areas of Europe, creativity and women's potential are little explored. This is where another contradiction arises. According to an article published in the National Geographic on the barriers women face in the agricultural sector, in general, globally, the face of farming is female. Despite this, in Europe, only 28% of women in the sector assume leadership or high responsibility functions on agricultural and livestock farms. Well… How about we even it up?
Researching the subject in these last days, I discovered that there are several female celebrities that inspire entrepreneurship in the food sector, and I thought it would be good to present two cases. Beyonce is one of them. In addition to a project related to fashion that the singer has with her mother, “Queen Bey” also has a vegan food delivery company called "22 Days Nutrition", in which all meals are 100% vegetable and organic, with non-GMO (non-genetically modified organism), gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free ingredients. Another example is Michelle Obama who, in 2015, was named Executive Director of "Let's Move!" and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, becoming a symbol of the role women play in highlighting food and agriculture.
To promote women's entrepreneurship in the agrifood sector, the European Commission is working with several countries to overcome these challenges and encourage women to open their businesses. Thus, EIT Food created the EWA - Empowering Women in AgriFood - program, aimed at women from southern and eastern Europe with talent and passion for entrepreneurship in the agrifood sector. This program was welcomed in Portugal by BGI, which will meet the aspirations of women in the AgriFood sector, leading them to start and develop sustainable businesses successfully. EWA seeks to find innovative solutions that solve the food system problems, paying special attention to areas that have a low innovation rate or difficult access to other incubation or acceleration programs. More precisely, EWA aims to train and facilitate the qualification of women entrepreneurs; develop seed-stage startups (or create new ones) and create links between industry, universities, new businesses and the community in general. Spain, Czech Republic, Romania and Turkey are another 4 hosts of this program that from now on have open applications.