TIWI – The Inclusive Way Initiative

Based on the study ‘For More Women Founders in Switzerland: Starting Points for Improving the Framework Conditions Relevant to Founding a Business’ of the Department of Economics of Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH) the FE+MALE Think Tank designed TIWI – The Inclusive Way Initiative.

The goal of TIWI is to raise awareness on the unique barriers that women entrepreneurs face compared to their male counterparts in Switzerland and to find tangible solutions how to increase the percentage of women entrepreneurs in Bern.

The Inclusive Way Initiative is supported by:

Why is a higher percentage of female founders important anyway?

The study shows that the gender gap in entrepreneurship is huge:

  1. 12,3% men vs. 7,2% women found their own companies
  2. only 7% of all financing rounds are from women-owned businesses
  3. only 4% of the invested money in start-ups goes to women-lead companies

As women think and act differently and face other challenges and problems in their daily lives than men, it’s crucial for the whole society to have more female founders.

How is TIWI supporting female entrepreneurship?

The Inclusive Way Initiative organizes a series of events:

  1. The impactful workshop brings together relevant high-level individuals in politics, economy and education to find the best possible solutions how to close the gender gap in entrepreneurship.
  2. The roundtable gathers stakeholders, partners and organizations at a table to evaluate and validate the concepts created to bring them from an idea to the development.
  3. The public forum highlights the importance of female entrepreneurship to a wider audience and unites ambassadors and organisations interested in changing the status-quo of female entrepreneurship in Bern and Switzerland.

Please reach out to us if you are interested in joining our discussion: fe.male.thinktank@gmail.com.

Three reasons why it’s important to close the gender gap in entrepreneurship

Different demographic groups in a society face different problems. As entrepreneurs often solve problems they observe in their own lives it is important that the diversity of entrepreneurs is as diverse as society so that all kind of problems are addressed accurately.

On the one hand, this leads to more innovation in general and on the other hand, to a higher focus on addressing specific needs, i.e. female needs.

Women are in general more driven by making a positive social impact than men. Therefore, it would be beneficial for the whole society if more women-lead businesses existed that focus on a sustainable economy.

To cushion the demographic change that is happening at the moment more women in the labour market would secure financing of old-age pensions. Improving the conditions for female founders would be a beneficial option to do so.

The Bern Economic Development Agency supports the FE+MALE Think Tank and its activities in the Canton of Bern. This multi-stakeholder initiative aims at the improvement of the framework conditions for female entrepreneurship. Hence, we help to raise awareness of challenges of female entrepreneurs, to facilitate the ongoing discussions and to develop tailor-made solutions and market-relevant tools.

Sebastian Friess, President, Bern Economic Development Agency

How could a higher percentage of female founders be achieved?

The study of the BFH shows that there exist five promising areas how to improve the conditions for female entrepreneurs:

  1. Entrepreneurship education
  2. Founding in the middle phase of life
  3. Heterogeneity in entrepreneurship
  4. Social entrepreneurship
  5. Norms and child-care work

Entrepreneurship education

Implementing the subject “entrepreneurship” in primary school could awake the passion to follow one’s own ideas and work on them in a safe space. It could promote confidence in one’s own abilities and empower self-efficiency that could benefit not only future entrepreneurs but also future employees.

The combination of entrepreneurship and tech education with a social impact orientation that could be interesting for girls and women would be a promising solution for the skills shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

Founding in the middle phase of life

By eliminating potential age discriminations for supporting programs or networks, creating additional network possibilities adapted to female needs and connecting former female academics with the ecosystem at universities the founding of a company after returning to work after a family phase could be an interesting career for women.

Heterogeneity in entrepreneurship

For a lot of people entrepreneurship often means full-time, masculinity, competitiveness and extrovertion with a focus on scalability and high-tech. As women found differently than men this focus doesn’t necessarily appeal to them.

A higher focus on social impact on a local scale and addressing other forms of financing and entrepreneurship could attract more female founders.

Social entrepreneurship

By connecting social impact with entrepreneurship, for example in cleantech or sustainability, and highlighting the possibility of using technology to tackle social problems women could be more encouraged to found their own company.

Norms and child-care work

As the compatibility of family and career is difficult because external child-care is expensive, timetables at schools change and the tax system disadvantages working parents, improving these conditions might specifically be beneficial for women as in Switzerland women still usually stay at home with the children while men go to work.

The gender bias is also present in the media and in committees of supporting programs or investors rounds. By showing more female founders as role models in the media and positioning more women in important entrepreneurial committes norms could be changed.

Are you interested in joining the discussion?
Please reach out to us via e-mail or connect with us on LinkedIn.

For further information please check out these documents: