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 Newsletter #5 | November 2021


Our international project “ifempower – Interactive and mentorship based FEMale emPOWERment in the field of entrepreneurship” has come to its end. With this newsletter we invite you to have a quick overview about our latest achievements. Hope you will enjoy reading! If you need further information or you would like to get in touch, let us know.

The ifempower project team


ifempower is a complex project led by HÉTFA Research Institute, and funded by the Erasmus+ programme with the aim of empowering female students at higher education institutions in the field of entrepreneurship.

Trained for Success: Empowering Future Women Entrepreneurs across Europe

Achievements of the ifempower project

During its three years of implementation, ifempower aimed to empower young female students to become potential entrepreneurs by providing the necessary knowledge and skills, both soft and hard, to start their successful businesses. To reach this goal, the project developed innovative tools, educational & training methods and a mentoring system with the collaboration of 9 partners, mostly universities and consultancies from different regions of Europe. Based on a preparatory research investigating the role of women in European SMEs (Study on Women Entrepreneurs in Europe), as well as gaps, obstacles and market needs, the project elaborated an International Curriculum for Higher Education in 5 languages for university students on entrepreneurship-related topics to support their engagement in self-employment. The accredited modules were launched and piloted at partner universities in Hungary, Iceland, Austria, Romania and Spain, and backed by International Teaching Materialfor the participating teachers. More than 100 students have enrolled on the courses developed by ifempower to immerse in the world of female entrepreneurship.

In addition, the project applied an innovative and participatory approach by providing aMentorship Scheme for interested students, connecting them to entrepreneurs. For those interested women who prefer to have a self-paced education, Ifempower also organised personal consultancy and developed a free Online Educational Toolkit, in 7 languages, including mentors motivational videos. All mentioned outputs are available as Open Education Resources (OER).

Finally, project results including policy recommendations that are expected to reach policymakers to fulfil the objective of making concrete progress in civil society regarding female entrepreneurship are collected in the Final ifempower Study.



Boosting Female Entrepreneurship
in the Digital Post-Covid Era

Take-away messages of the Final Multiplier Event

The Final Multiplier Event of the ifempower project was held online, on 12 July 2021, attracting participants from 17 countries. The event gathered HE institutions, students, representatives of businesses, enterprises and business support organizations wishing to support the empowerment of females, as well as national & EU decision makers. The meeting had three main goals: to spread information about European Commission initiatives aiming to support women entrepreneurs, to raise awareness about the ifempower project and its outputs and to formulate policy recommendations as well as action steps in order to make entrepreneurship more equal.

In her keynote speech, Dana Adriana Puia Morel, PhD, from DG GROW emphasized the Commission’s multifold support to those female entrepreneurs and would-be-entrepreneurs whose potential have not been fulfilled yet: via the networking tool WEgate - The European Gateway for Women’s entrepreneurship, Entrecomp focusing on entrepreneurship education, the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)helping businesses grow at an international scale, Gender-smart financing promoting investment in companies where female managers or founders are on board, the improvement of digital competences of girls and women via the currently open tender “Enhancing Digital and Entrepreneurial Competences in Girls and Women”, and finally, DigComp - the European Digital Competence Framework helping women to be more proficient in their digital competences. A strong learning component is prevalent in most of these initiatives since learning opportunities can bring out the best of women entrepreneurs, according to Dana Morel.

In the second part of the meeting an inspiring roundtable discussion took place, moderated by Eva Merloni, PhD, President and Chief Project Officer of Area Europa and Project manager of WEgate on behalf of ESBA – European Small Business Alliance. Three renowned European experts have been invited for the discussions:

Sanja Popović-Pantić, PhD, Chair of the EENWomen's Entrepreneurship Sector Group, also representing the Association of Business Women and theInstitute Mihajlo Pupin in Serbia, pointed out the main challenges women entrepreneurs are facing: access to finances, access to markets, access to innovation, need for tools to ensure sustainability in the time of crisis and better education related to digitalisation.

Anna Clark, PhD, President of Women@EIT, encouraged networking and following positive role models. Women are still underrepresented in entrepreneurship and in the tech sector, especially in leadership positions. She emphasized that education should be redefined: women should be more involved in formal education within STEM areas, and more funding should be dedicated to support them. The benefits of diversity should be promoted in order to achieve more equality in bigger organisational structures.

Amélie Leclercq, European Women’s Lobby Board member representing BPW (Business & Professional Women) Europe in Belgium and Director of Presechni Tochki eood, stressed that women need to lobby both at individual and at system levels to have more space in the economy. Policy makers’ language needs to be used – key words such as innovation, modernization, digitalization, inclusiveness referring to common priorities – in order to integrate equality objectives into their mission and vision.

The invited experts formulated the following recommendations to boost female entrepreneurship:

  • Access to markets: large companies are required to pay increased attention to sustainability, including the objective to build a society of equal opportunities (SDG5). The SME sector shall not be developed in parallel but in synergy with this process. NGOs and academia, as intermediators, can enhance such synergies in the private sector.
  • Regarding corporate tenders the tax policy is a strong tool that can encourage big companies to involve entrepreneurs from vulnerable groups – incl. women entrepreneurs – in their supply chains.
  • Access to finances shall be improved, especially ensuring support to innovation at the early stage of business development. Existing business incubator and accelerator programs shall be reconsidered in a way to have more diversity in these areas so far dominated by men.
  • Gender budgeting should be applied by authorities managing public funding, as well as by trade unions and chambers of commerce, aiming to achieve equality between women and men. This method has been successfully implemented in some EU countries and should be extended to more countries.
  • More gender-related topics should appear in public tenders.
  • More women evaluators should be involved in assessing public tenders. Tangible data shall be gathered and analysed to advocate women in the overall process, registering the gender of the offeror at the beginning of the tender and of those who finally make the contracts.
  • Evidence based information shall be brought to the attention of decision makers allowing them to make fair and equal policies. First, the key decision makers and decision making processes need to be identified. Second, data collection shall be systematic to monitor the expenditures of public resources.
  • The involvement of men is needed in the discussions about how to make things equal for everyone. Due to the overbalance of men in policy making, more attention should be paid to understand their priorities and to link equality objectives to their agendas, using their own statements to push for change. Using the same language is necessary to achieve the target.
  • One of the best ways to reduce the leadership gap, pay gap, investment gap and pension gap is to involve men more in childcare.
  • Female role models shall promote their stories at local, national and international level. Successful women entrepreneurs should be asked to share about the difficulties and stereotypes they faced on their way to success.
  • Keep empowering more women, increasing their confidence to pursue their professional endeavours

You can find our full event summary here

Read our ifempower Final Study

The ifempower final study synthesises the main findings of the project while identifying good practices via channelling feedbacks from stakeholders: students, teachers and business partners. In addition, it provides policy recommendations related to the most significant project activities to ensure the transferability of the project outputs to other institutions and countries. Find our full report here.

Based on the project achievements, our Final Study offers the following policy recommendations:

1. Educational policy recommendations
a) for universities and training centres
• The success of the case study based tools and methods of the ifempower curriculum has demonstrated that these could be widely applicable and useful in (business) higher education. We recommend the widespread use of entrepreneurial case studies (including audiovisual materials).
• The practical focus on developing and presenting business ideas and business plans was among the most successful elements of ifempower study programs. It is recommended to add some elements of these to any higher education programs that have possible entrepreneurial applications by adopting the ifempower curriculum or an alternative tailored to the local context.

b) for agencies supporting female entrepreneurship
• Reaching university students as potential entrepreneurs can be challenging for agencies outside higher education. We recommend cultivating long-term partnerships between higher education institutions and supporting agencies involving both training and consultation services, as well as joint events.
 • The success of the gender-specific self-awareness and social awareness elements of the ifempower curriculum highlight the importance of these aspects in supporting (potential) female entrepreneurs. Agencies should incorporate these aspects into their activities either through partnerships with local universities or through adopting parts of the ifempower curriculum themselves.

c) for policymakers at the local, regional, national and European level
 • Although consulting and mentorship based on personal connections seem to be the most effective ways of introducing young people into the entrepreneurial world, the availability of local entrepreneurs may strongly limit these. As universities might not have the funding necessary to attract practitioners to these programs, policymakers could step in by attaching positive incentives to mentorship activities, motivating more entrepreneurs to pass on their knowledge.
2. Entrepreneurship support policy recommendations

a) for universities and training centres
 • The use of group consultation sessions for aspiring female entrepreneurs is highly recommended, as it yielded great results at some ifempower partners. Group sessions can be instrumental in alleviating the issues arising from more impersonal, online consultations.
 • Involving potential mentors (practising professionals) in teaching could facilitate the development of personal connections and trust between prospective mentors and mentees, which has proven to be a key factor of success in mentoring. This involvement should be formalized with proper remuneration in countries where pro bono mentorship is not the norm.
b) for agencies supporting female entrepreneurship
• The challenges faced by the entrepreneurship support points and mentorship programs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the technical fragility of the entrepreneurship support ecosystem. Training programs for mentors and consultants should be introduced, equipping them with the skills necessary to perform their roles online in case of future constraints to in-person meetings.
 • The costs of learning and applying new mentorship and consulting skills and methods should be reduced by introducing community learning. It would require the joint maintenance of a long-term (virtual and possibly personal) platform for those involved in entrepreneurship support activities, where participants could raise issues and share insights.
c) for policymakers at the local, regional, national and European level
 • Meet-ups involving prospective future mentors and mentees at the regional or local level could be organised or supported by government institutions. These events should encourage the participation of individuals not coming from business/social elites, contributing not just to gender equality but a higher level of competition of ideas overall.

3. Gender equality policy recommendations
a) for universities and training centres
• Universities should strive to include examples of female entrepreneurs in their curricula, even for courses not dealing specifically with gender issues. While the ifempower project focused on female students, it should be standard for students of any gender to know – and possibly see as role models – female entrepreneurs.
b) for agencies supporting female entrepreneurship

 • A trust-based personal connection between mentor and mentee or consultant and those seeking advice is key to the success of these services. Potential young female entrepreneurs involved in ifempower often found it necessary to develop connections with similar mentors. Therefore, it is recommended for agencies to have qualified female consultants/mentors involved to reach potential female entrepreneurs successfully.

c) for policy makers at the local, regional, national and European level
• Instructors’ and organisers’ experiences in teaching the ifempower curriculum highlight the continuous work associated with finding local female entrepreneurs and involving them as role models, mentors and consultants (especially where gender equality in entrepreneurship is lacking). While this work likely has significant positive effects on gender equality, it is not necessarily valued accordingly within higher education or entrepreneurial services organisations. Policymakers at all levels could introduce incentives to include female entrepreneurship aspects in higher education and entrepreneurial support services.

ifempower Online Toolkit

The ifempower online education platform provides support that is especially made for you! You may find good practices or specific suggestions to your specific problems based on real entrepreneurs’ expertise, from practical examples and real-life challenges.

As it is online and free of charge, it can help female students or women in general who are interested in creating their own business in the EU in various ways, including legislative, administrative, managerial, or personal issues which are based on stakeholder interviews, practical, real-life challenges of female entrepreneurs. The materials are available in 7 languages (EN, DE, HU, ES, PT, RO, IS) in addition to EN. Register now, learn with us and test your knowledge!


Check out our #MentorMotivation series on YouTube!

Find inspiring stories from successful female entrepreneurs in various industries and sectors for your business idea an development as well as work-life-balance tips and hacks. Learn more about ifempower inspiring stories here:

View inspirational stories

On November 19th, 2021 we will celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day!

The results of the ifempower project are going to be presented by HÉTFA’s experts at the local Women’s Entrepreneurship Day in Hungary. We will hold a world café and will participate in a roundtable discussion. You can join our event in person, if you are in Budapest. The program and further details are being posted here

You can also join the international online #WEDO2021 Virtual Summit to learn from some of the most influential successful women and men who are making a positive impact in the world here

Last year the Women Entrepreneurship Day was celebrated in 144 countries empowering 4 billion women worldwide. You can check out a short video summary about it here.

To get engaged in self-employment and entrepreneurship, especially to empower females; ifempower encourage you to:

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By subscribing to the Newsletter, you will benefit from:
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ifempower newsletter was published and distributed by SPI. ifempower project is coordinated by HÉTFA.

ifempower received funding from the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme under the registration number 2018-1-HU01-KA203-047766. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.


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