22 April 2022

Empowering European Women in Agrifood

Did you know that, in Europe, only around 30% of women account for top positions in agricultural and livestock farms? In addition to that, rural women still face serious disadvantages compared not only to rural men, but also to urban women.

Despite policy efforts to reduce these differences, recent studies show that the progress has not been sufficient. Female leadership and entrepreneurial potential remain – no doubts – an untapped source of economic growth that should be further encouraged and supported.

To change this scenario, Impact Hub and European-based partners are taking part in the Better Incubation program. As part of the initiative that aims at a more (and truly) inclusive entrepreneurial environment in the region, thematic Communities of Practice (CoP) were created for participants to share their experiences on how to best support entrepreneurs from under-represented groups – for instance, women. When evaluating the peculiarities of this target group in terms of barriers, opportunities and available support programs, Empowering Women in Agrifood came about as one of the best practices in Europe dedicated to triggering the much-needed systemic changes and supporting female entrepreneurs.

Fostering Innovation to Support Female Entrepreneurs

Europe’s leading food innovation initiative,
EIT Food, has been working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted since 2016. Building an inclusive and innovative community to “foster innovation at all stages of business creation” is one of their main goals – and for that end, supporting female entrepreneurs is a must-do. Which leads us to Empowering Women in Agrifood (EWA).

EWA is one of the projects supported by EIT Food, which focus on supporting female entrepreneurs through education, network building, and dedicated programme resources. It is present in 8 countries and has supported 80 entrepreneurs all around Europe throughout a 6-months long entrepreneurial journey. EWA’s ultimate goal is to overcome the existing gender gap in the agrifood sector with a special focus on less innovative European regions. How do they plan to achieve it? By promoting inclusivity and diversity between business founders, and increasing female founded start-ups.

Bringing EWA to Romania: a journey led by Impact Hub Bucharest

For the implementation of Romania’s chapter of EWA, EIT Food partnered up with Impact Hub Bucharest. The first edition of the program in the country was successfully run between May and November of 2020 – thanks to the great satisfaction of participants and growing interest of stakeholders, EWA has the potential to keep opening new (and more) doors for women in the Romanian agrifood sector.

Empowering European Women in Agrifood_Impact Hub

Differently from the original approach, Impact Hub Bucharest followed a particular path in tracking the mentorship sessions, allocation of resources and the communication and engagement of the team project and the entrepreneurs, which was mostly based on the participants’ needs. By using a special form, they tracked the monthly evolution of the entrepreneurs and were better prepared to support them. Improvements were also said to be made regarding the training within the masterclasses, as they replaced hard skills training with mentorship on real problems that the entrepreneurs face.

In a nutshell, the program offered the participants relevant capacity-building sessions, several funding opportunities, mentorship and ongoing support, and a network within a supportive community and high-level stakeholders.

As a result, some significant – and positive, indeed – developments were made with the 10 participating businesses. The collected data on the program’s impact provide an accurate picture of the results: 30% of the start-ups had their first clients during the programme; 40 % have improved business operation; 50% have expanded their teams; 40% have improved their marketing strategy; 60% have established new partnerships; 40% have improved their pricing strategy; and 20% have created new products.

In the context of Better Incubation, Impact Hub joined forces with the European Business and Innovation Centre Network and the European Venture Philanthropy Association to achieve systemic change through enhancing Business Support Organisations’ skills, methods and tools towards entrepreneurs from different social backgrounds. If you are eager to learn more about action stories related to this initiative, check this interview with Syed Hasnain, who took part in one of the program’s CoP and advocates for refugees and migrants socio-economic inclusion in Europe.