Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, everything has changed and especially for the economic environment of women entrepreneurship. The most affected activities during COVID-19 pandemic are those in which a larger share are women, such as consulting, education, tourism and trade. Many women in high-risk sectors are self-employed or owners of micro or small -sized enterprises, who have been especially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, available evidence shows that women are operating businesses with a much lower level of capitalization and are more reliant on their own funds. On the other side, for many women the COVID-19 crisis represented the turning point for their business, giving a large push toward woman entrepreneurship.
The Webinar “COVID-19 pandemic – imposed catalyst for Women’s Entrepreneurship progress in the Adriatic and Ionian Region?” which was held on January 29 at 16pm, was organized in cooperation with Croatian Chamber of Economy – Split County Chamber and Ioannina University, will open a discussion and share experiences on how the COVID-19 is changing the future of work for many women.
Moderating the debate Antonija Bašić (Croatian Chamber of Economy – Split County Chamber – Croatia).
The meeting opened with greetings from the President of the Marche Chamber of Commerce and of the Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Chambers of Commerce, Gino Sabatini, who greeted all the participants to the last of the three Side-Events organized by the Forum with AII and the Slovenian Presidency. “We are conscious that women are the most afflicted by this terrible pandemic, but they are also showing a great strength and resilience. Women entrepreneurs are an added value to our territory: they show a higher interest and attention in green economy and the wellbeing of the environment, and have shown a great capacity of economic growth. I am so very glad we had these three days of meetings and productive exchange, because they allowed us to reduce the distance caused by the pandemic and to be together again. Innovation is once again the keyword and women are mastering it, so I am sure they will flourish more and more”.
Joze Tomas (President of the Croatian Chamber of Economy – Split County Chamber – Croatia) confirmed that the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative is at the front row for the support to Women entrepreneurship in many different ways. Those are certainly hard times, but we surely will overcome them together. He then expressed his gratitude towards the Forum, that demonstrated a strong presence during the terrible earthquakes events in Croatia.
The ambassador Milan Jazbec (AII Chairman-in-office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia) underlined the opportunity these three events are giving us to create a network and discuss about a very important and fundamental subject such as women entrepreneurship. He is glad to participate on behalf of the Slovenian presidency of the AII. He then announced that, later in March, the AII Slovenian Presidency will organize a Round Table discussion on equal opportunities and he would love to see the participation of the For a of Civil Society.
The ambassador Fabio Pigliapoco (Adriatic Ionian Initiative Permanent Secretariat) then reminded the participants about the framework in which the events are included which is the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative and, more widely, the V EUSAIR FORUM. He affirmed that the contribution of the Stakeholders, who work every day for the development of the Strategy, is essential, and he is convinced that this is the right path to follow, all together.
The first part of the Webinar focused on How women entrepreneurs have reoriented their business?; The meeting was opened Mirjana Čagalj, Vice President for Construction, Transportation and Connectivity at Croatian Chamber of Economy (Croatia) who presented the current situation of women in the constructions industry. She affirmed that the pandemic by COvid-19 increased the number of industries lead by women, and we must not forget the 2 terrible earthquakes that hit Croatia during the last period, which saw the necessity to put up a team of engineers and constructors, composed by a percentage of 32% of women.
Albana Laknori, Secretary General at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Tirana (Albania) offered participants a general overview of a project, that wanted to give help and support to ladies in the handicraft sector, who were struggling due to many different factors. They were given 400 dollars in raw materials, and a tablet, in order to teach them how to earn their own money by advertising online their own works. The project is not over yet, there are still women completing the process. The end is due at the end of February and the major aim is to make them independent.
Sanja Popović Pantić, EEN Women Entrepreneurship Sector Group (Serbia) gave a presentation of the EEN Network, which helps industries innovate and grow on an international scale. The Network is active in more than 60 countries worldwide. She then added that our two regions are very well linked one to the other when it comes to Women’s entrepreneurship and we know that when there are disparities at the horizon we must act all together as one force and do what must be done. The mission is to help women find their clients, help them create a network and focus on education; it is also important to create partnerships and support those women entrepreneurs. Keywords are: online training to globalize their potential, and digitization.
The second session of the webinar was dedicated to Best Practices – women entrepreneurs from Adriatic and Ionian Region: Edita Maretić Dimlić, Principal at Institution for employment, labor and professional rehabilitation of persons with disabilities DES (Croatia) described their effort to help people with disabilities to develop their own working potential. They operate in 5 sectors: clothing, packaging, silkscreen printing, constructions and food for public canteens. With the Covid situation getting worst we immediately started to think how we could face it in a resilient and profitable way and we started producing masks. Our women put all their effort in doing this massive production and it proved itself to be the right choice since we had a +5% of income compared to 2019. All our leading positions are covered by women, and we are proud of our job, during this hard time.
Andrea Kavarić, Professor University Mediteran, CEO, HOST Consulting (Montenegro) took the floor, and confirmed the common idea of men entrepreneurs considered as innovators, while women entrepreneurs are considered to be just a small sector struggling to make its way in the world. She operates in the Tourism sector and she saw how in Montenegro women have been the first to lose their jobs due to the pandemic; moreover she points out how inequality affects also the positions covered by women who are normally found in operational, while man in the management. She is currently leading an innovative consulting company devoted to the tourism sector and she is strongly confident about what future holds for women in the field.
Sara Ghorbanali, Paola&Sara Miniature, dolls dresses and wigs – Crafts, Handmade Products and Marketplace (Italy) holds a family driven company of dolls production. They reinvented themselves during the pandemic and are a perfect example of best practices and resilience in times of crisis. Since the fairs were blocked and there was no way to sell or even show their work, they decided to invest in technology, by developing their own social networks and devoting themselves to digital marketing education. The following step was buying a 3D painter, with which they can now produce complete dolls without relying on suppliers. They closed 2020 with a +10% of income compared to the previous year.
Ana Zovko, Owner and Manager, Afarm Pharmacy (Bosnia and Herzegovina) presented the situation of a Pharmacy during the pandemic, which is obviously very different in normal situations. Before Covid hit the world the pharmacist job was strongly connected with the public, for any type of consultation, it was normal to get to see the patient and to hear directly from him his necessities and problems. The pandemic caused an immediate stop to all of that, so we had to think to other ways to reach our patients and remain a constant presence for them. We started to use social media more and more, both for information which was crucial during the lockdown and we needed to be the more precise and authoritative as possible, and also for advertising our products. The response we got was incredibly positive, also on our sales volume. Even though we succeeded in staying strong during the pandemic, the direct contact with the patients is fundamental for us and we hope we’ll have the possibility to see them in person very soon.
The third and last session, dedicated to Enabling technology for women’s intrapreneurship and the role of higher education in EUSAIR Area, opened with Alina Degteva (PhD Student at the University of Ioannina, Greece) who first underlined the differences between Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship, The second terminology refers to the capacity of having an attitude and a mind structure which is typical of entrepreneurs, while working for a company or association. Women are more likely to become intrapreneurs, because they consider continuous education to be a must, so even if they might have limited experience in a sector, or have limited access to education, they don’t take it into consideration and are willing to take risks.
The debate will continue in the group that will be created within the Stakeholder Platform, in which the presentations of the speakers and the recording of the event will be uploaded.
Here you can find the Recording of the EVENT. Below the presentations of the speakers: