- Isabella Lenarduzzi

Treat us differently but equally!

JUMP’s first survey among self-employed women in Belgium, will be finished this week. The full survey will be soon available online on the blog JUMP and on the website of the National Institute for equality between women and men (www.iehf.be) for which JUMP has done the study.

It is the first one of its kind to make a distinction between women who are self-employed or company owners highlighting their differing needs. There are some striking similarities too! Take a look at some of the highlights.

Among the 480 women who responded to our survey, 12% are in a “profession liberale” (self-employed professionals such as lawyers, doctors, architects, accountants); 22% are majority shareholders in a company and 12% are early stage entrepreneurs but did not currently have a self-employed status. The ages of those responding to the survey averaged between 35 and 54 years and they came from Brussels (54%) and Flanders (33%).

Over 50% of those questioned had set up their activities in services to the business sector compared to 27% in the services to individuals sector and 10% in retail. Self-employed women with less than 5,000 euros capital are still more prevalent in the care sector than any other.

An overwhelming 93% of self-employed Dutch-speaking women compared to 75% French-speaking felt that being self-employed is socially accepted. Very surprising given the fact that Belgium is still lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to exercising that entrepreneurial spirit. See the article on « L’esprit d’entreprise belge à la queue du peloton européen ».

More self-employed women put a higher priority on the need to be supported by partners and families than those women owning their own companies. Only 28% of those starting up as freelance had received any external advice compared to 41% of women setting up a company. The majority want to have maternity leave on a par with that offered to female employees (the European Parliament recently voted on a similar proposal). In addition to extending the maternity leave from the current six weeks to 14 weeks, 83% of freelancers (self employed women not owning a company) also wanted more child care with more flexibility compared to 92% business owners. Both freelance and business owners also attached great importance to more after school support for their children. The higher their company turnover the more important they found this support to be. This must be related to fact that these businesses are more likely to have employees and thus to have less flexibility in working hours.

On the whole, an overwhelming 91% of Dutch-speaking female entrepreneurs questioned compared to 75% of French-speaking were very happy to have taken the steps to strike out on their own. But nevertheless they also felt that the Belgium government could do much more to support them and others wanting to start out in the future. In the Eurobarometer for entrepreneurship issued by the European Commission, Belgium is the only country with Slovakia, where less than one third of the population declares any interest for being an entrepreneur. The figures are even worse for women compared to men! 73% of US citizens questioned in this survey said that they have a favourable image of entrepreneurs. In Europe at least about half of the population (49%) has a favourable image of entrepreneurs.

Can our economy stand it any longer?

Happy summer time, we will get back in September!