As part of the 2nd Adriatic Innovation Forum VISIONARIA, held in Pescara from 21 to 24 November 2022, Forum AIC in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce of Chieti-Pescara and its Development Agency, organised the 12th Congress of female entrepreneurship in the Adriatic and Ionian area.

The Congress, in the context of sustainability and innovation issues, aimed to provide an interregional perspective on the best practices and challenges prevailing in increasing the economic empowerment of women and entrepreneurial activities in the Adriatic and Ionian Macroregion, having as key themes the empowerment of women and the role of the chambers system in the accompaniment of SMEs.

The event aimed to develop and strengthen the institutional and economic collaboration between female entrepreneurs in Italy and the A-I area, providing a concrete opportunity for meeting and discussion in light of the opportunities arising from the NRRP (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) and stimulating forms of local, national, and European networking.

The interventions were divided into presentations on development opportunities, training and funding, as well as direct experiences of women entrepreneurs in the Area.

Regarding the opportunities, the congress saw the interventions of European institutions, Chambers of Commerce and ICE (Italian Trade & Investment Agency), developing the main themes of the conference, sustainability and innovation, bringing the right distinctions at the state level.

Through the testimonies of entrepreneurs who have invested in the perspective of sustainability and innovation, it has been possible to observe the difficulties of the same in developing their businesses, thus bringing a point of reflection for targeted support to the category. 


Michele De Vita, Secretary General of the Chamber of Commerce of Chieti-Pescara as well as of Forum AIC, opened the meeting by moderating the first section on institutional greetings, which saw the intervention of:

They all paid tribute to the event, recalling, in particular, the over twenty-year commitment of the Forum AIC in the Adriatic-Ionian area, thanking the Chamber of Chieti-Pescara for providing the right space for an event of this importance.

The institutional greetings concluded with the signing of the Convention between the IAI Permanent Secretariat and Forum AIC for the “Western-Balkanship” project in the presence of Amb. Giovanni Castellaneta, Secretary General of the Adriatic Ionian Initiative and Dr. Michele De Vita, Secretary General of the Forum AIC. The project with funding from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides for the activation of 50 work placements for students in the area, strengthening cooperation between countries and creating opportunities for companies.


The floor passed to Matteo La Torre, senior researcher of the Department of Economics of the “G. D’Annunzio” Chieti-Pescara University, moderator of the panel “European Networks for the enhancement of female entrepreneurship“, who saw the interventions of:

The interventions focused on presenting activities, services and initiatives put in place to support female entrepreneurship and support of their SMEs (at European and non-European levels). 

The first speaker was Ms. Pantić, who presented all the EEN services to meet the needs of female entrepreneurship. Among the many, internationalization, market access, thematic groups, B2B meetings and other meetings aimed at a direct confrontation between entrepreneurs (face-to-face and online) are mentioned. Particular attention has been paid to the EEN tool, “3 minutes speech e-catalog“, where the profiles of women entrepreneurs are collected, thus providing opportunities for growth by creating meetings with investors and networking with other companies in the same sector. 

As her first intervention as president of the Eurochambres Women Network, Ms. Rozić recalled that “entrepreneurship has no gender”, being, therefore, the main focus of the association to support women entrepreneurs to achieve the objectives of European sustainability and development. The tools put in place are different, analysing in particular the “Environmental, social, and corporate governance” (ESG), internal and external company analysis data. These data establish that the success or failure of a company depends on the way employees, customers, suppliers or institutions are treated. Finally, she concluded by mentioning the “pink quotas”, establishing both the only possible action to date: “a good solution on an emergency call”.

The last speaker was Ms. Meleš, who, representing EISMEA, presented the opportunities and funds present at the European level to develop research and innovation between businesses, creating concrete opportunities for SMEs to be more competitive, digital and green within the European and global market. 

She recalls the importance of the “pink soft-quotas” (25% of female companies are reinstated in the evaluation system), so as not to affect the final results of the project or funding but still provide women entrepreneurs with an additional opportunity, having as a final goal at least 40% of funding for female companies. Among the various initiatives and projects, she concluded her speech by presenting the Women Innovators EU Prize and the Women TechEU.

11:15 – 12.30

At the end of this section of European international networks, the focus was then shifted to chambers of commerce through the panel: “Women’s empowerment for business development – the role of the Chambers of Commerce“. Mr. Matteo la Torre therefore moderated the reports of: 

The purpose of the Panel was to understand the role of the Chambers of Commerce in strengthening women’s entrepreneurship and the value and future role of female entrepreneurs.

Ms. Pompei, after a short bracket on the digital transition and environmental sustainability that add added value to entrepreneurship, has drawn up a list of all the active policies on the Unioncamere front to support women’s companies, moving from financial resources to mentoring paths by more established companies. She summarised her intervention on the concept of “being inclusive suits”, presenting a governance tool close to activation that provides for certification of gender equality within companies (for which they will receive training and funding).

Ms. Ferrone recalled that the problem of female entrepreneurship is a common problem, identifying motherhood as one of the greatest management difficulties. Contrary to the establishment of the pink quotas, although stating that “everything starts from cultural training, both at school and at home”, asking the institutions to make more progress to help young people from an early age to go hand in hand with a new entrepreneurial culture, far from the patriarchal preconceptions of the past.

Ms. Di Tullio presented the results of a project already presented at the first VISIONARIA edition last year, called: “The futurization of business: Business models for change and innovation”. Analysis of the entrepreneurial fabric of the province of Chieti-Pescara with the aim of studying the evolutionary scenarios of local businesses and enterprises.

Through the various steps, it has been possible an empirical analysis of the territory on several levels, identifying in the first place the difficulties of women entrepreneurs, linked to a “gendered” culture (linked to past social constructs), evident in particular regarding the difficulty of access to financing for their companies as well as a lack of services to parenting.

After a more Italian focus, we moved on to the various national pivots, with representatives from Croatia, Greece, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro. 

For Croatia, Ms. Trojić, President of the Dubrovnik Chamber of Commerce, wanted to recall the historic role of her Chamber of Commerce as the venue of the first Congress of Female Entrepreneurship in 2006, also recalling the first president of the Forum, Jadranka Radovanic, former President of the Split Chamber of Commerce. After providing a series of data on the resilience of Croatian women entrepreneurs, she concluded her speech by stating: “Women do not have enough courage to become part of the business sector. The task of all of us, through these conferences, is to remind women entrepreneurs that they have a support network“. 

Ms. Efraimoglou, President of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, representing Greece, took the floor. After identifying the lack of digital skills as the worst deficiency in Greek female entrepreneurship, she proceeded to present all the actions put in place to improve the conditions of women entrepreneurs, speaking in particular of the Incubator service carried out by the Chamber, all to “put women in the focus of the country’s economic development”. 

For Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms. Lovrić recalled the role of the Chamber of Commerce of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a strategic partner of the state government, having focused its efforts in recent years towards gender balance. The actions implemented, from financial support to the organisation of B2B, were then concentrated on the training sector, identified as fundamental as “women need training, to learn to create, manage and administer a start-up”.

To conclude the panel, Ms. Filipovic, recalled the systemic involvement of women entrepreneurs within the initiatives of the Chamber of Commerce of Montenegro, strongly believing that gender equality ensures access to training and opportunities for growth. After observing, at the state level, a gender-based funding gap, Montenegro has moved through the Ministry and various municipalities to promote especially the training of new women entrepreneurs, who have responded well to the initiative. Finally, she recalled the importance of networking carried out within this congress, which “provides different ways to face similar difficulties”. 

12:30 13:00

With the conclusion of the second panel, the participants had the chance to hear the testimonies of entrepreneurs who have invested time and money to achieve an entrepreneurial idea from the perspective of innovation and sustainability. Presentations of the company development of:

  • Dragica Jerkov, Director of Fema, member of KRUG, part of the RAISEYouth initiative (Croatia)
  • Silvia D’Alessandro, General Manager Gegel Srl, Chieti (Italy)

14:00 – 14:45

With regard to the opportunities of the countries of the AI Macroregion, of great interest to women entrepreneurs on the Italian territory, two representatives of ICE (the Italian government agency that promotes the internationalisation of companies abroad) followed, in addition to the presentation of the Erasmus network for Young Entrepreneurs in favour of aspiring entrepreneurs. 

With the moderation of Ms. Maura Di Marco, Press and Communication Manager of the Chieti-Pescara Chamber of Commerce, the following took part in the “Country Focus and opportunities for Italian companies: Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina“:

  • Sandra Di Carlo, Director of the ICE Office in Zagreb and Sarajevo
  • Serenella Marzoli, Director of the Ljubljana ICE Office
  • Simona Simulyte, Coordinator of the EIW3 Consortium (Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs)

Consult the following links for the presentations of Ms. Di Carlo and Ms. Marzoli regarding the state focus.

14:45 – 15:45

The Panel: “Focus on the economic opportunities of the Adriatic-Ionian area” saw the participation of:

The discussion began with the presentation of the state of the art in the province of Chieti-Pescara, with the intervention of Ms. Scastiglia who recalled the Chamber’s commitment to networking and training aspiring entrepreneurs of the territory. She also recalled the FENOMENA initiative, developed in collaboration with ICE, which puts in contact the creativity of female entrepreneurs from southern Italy with foreign investors. She concluded her speech by recalling the importance of support and the development of new talents and connections, such as to be able to have a positive impact throughout the national territory.

Ms. Šimić presented the interventions put in place by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for the development of new digital solutions, in order to speed up business and bureaucratic management and to improve the efficiency of businesses. There is a need for greater commitment to supporting companies through the development of new activities.

Ms. Marić began her speech by recalling the support offered to women’s businesses in Bosnia and Herzegovina, through the organisation of round tables, refresher courses, training, etc. recalling in particular the constant battle against the stereotypes still present, derived from the patriarchal tradition. She concludes with a call for the hope that “with entry into the EU, combined with the harmonisation of laws, we can contribute to the entrepreneurial status of Bosnian women”.

Moving on to the Greek point of view, through the intervention of Ms. Pagge, specifically on the digitization of women since the university period. Taking her own country as an example, she presented data on the presence of women in STEM faculties (much lower than the percentage of men), highlighting – as already mentioned in other speeches – the cultural difficulties regarding the opportunities for women to use new technologies. She concludes with the presentation of the SocEntrep4NGOs project, aimed at bridging this digital skills gap for young entrepreneurs.

The panel concludes with the intervention of Ms. Xhabija who recalls the past editions of the Congress for Women Entrepreneurship, starting from its foundation in 2006, appreciating its growth and commitment over the years in creating an independent network with a strong presence in the territory, able to train the new generations of female entrepreneurs.

15:45 – 16:30

Finally, the latest company testimonies, “Female Entrepreneurs of the Ionian Adriatic area who have invested in the perspective of sustainability and innovation“, brought an analysis of the qualities of women in entrepreneurship as well as the difficulties they have had to face in establishing their own companies.

Speeches by:

All the entrepreneurs found themselves united by the difficulty of being taken seriously, starting their entrepreneurial journey at a young age and being charged with the prejudices of the sector. Fundamental for all of them was the support of family and friends, which pushed them undisturbed toward the success of their entrepreneurial idea.


The congress concludes with the concluding remarks of Ms. Terezina Orlic, former President of the Dubrovnik Chamber of Economy, who was a member of the Board of Governors of Forum AIC.

With a personal excursus on her life after retirement, which saw her undertake the Camino de Santiago alone covering over 900 km. She offered a motivational message on the strength of women, on their role and value in society that go beyond his career path.


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