While the start-up ecosystem has never grown as fast as now in Brussels, women seem to remain an exception in the field. Indeed, the rate of female entrepreneurs here is lower than its European neighbors (2,9% in Belgium versus an average of 5,5% for the European Union) and technology sectors keep attracting more men than their counterparts.
The Belgian capital has the resources needed to motivate the next generations of women and take actions to promote women in technologies. New initiatives as “Women in Tech”, introduced by the Plan NextTech, are steps towards gender equality in a digitalized world. As a reminder, the Plan NextTech was elaborated by Gosuin’s cabinet and is made of twenty actions aiming to boost IT entrepreneurship in Brussels.
One of our ambitions at the MIC Brussels is to empower girls and women in entrepreneurship and IT. During the next weeks, through the series of portraits “Women, IT & Entrepreneurship”, we will bring in the spotlight inspiring key-actresses of these worlds. We are dedicated to have more women take the step and become successful IT entrepreneurs!
Loubna Azghoud: « Do it, don’t hesitate! »
At the head of “Women in Business”, the unit in charge of female entrepreneurship at Impulse Brussels, Loubna Azghoud is passionate about women’s rights and economic matters. Her position at Impulse is for her a second nature and conciliates these two interests. With the new network “Women in Tech” that was introduced by the NextTech plan at the end of January, she wants to promote more girls and women in IT and complete her mission at “Women in Business”.
The main challenges that women face in entrepreneurship
“The most interesting parts of the job are the challenges surrounding it.” Loubna reminds us the pessimistic statistics about female entrepreneurs in Belgium: there are only 2,9% of them in the country, this making Belgium the black sheep of the European Union. Why are there so little women entrepreneurs? She explains: “It can be difficult to find the good balance between work life and private life but there is also generally a lack of role models and confidence among women who want to start a business. To that, there is the risk aversion which is widespread among many women and a lack of network.”
What is the most important drag? “I think that our biggest challenge today is the digital gender gap. In a world in transition, it is very important that women take precedence over that sector and that we don’t let that disparity expand. New jobs will appear and it is crucial that women are part of that evolution. We need to raise the alarm, also because these changes are most of all opportunities.”
Emancipation and entrepreneurial spirit
Promoting gender equality in entrepreneurship is not just a societal matter. There is a strong economic interest for the public as well. “Women’s labor force is an important part of the economic growth. We need to remember that they represent half of the world population and thus half of the available skills.”
More than that, the entrepreneurial spirit is beneficial for everyone, in the professional or personal life. She interprets the small ratio of that entrepreneurial projects among Belgians – for men and women – as the symptom of a less enterprising culture, especially compared to the Anglo-Saxon countries.
Women in Business and Women in Tech: new supports for women
With “Women in Business”, she hopes to encourage that essence we need. Several actions can be taken: organizing female networks; helping women gaining confidence, highlighting entrepreneurs and women in tech. “This is not a fight that only women have to undertake. Men also have their role to play. Everyone needs to understand that women have their place in these sectors.
She explains that one of the issues that women generally face when they have ideas to start with is the risk aversion. “That change of mindset can take time and need to be encourage by politics. Saying that, there is also work to be done towards men’s work life. We should more encourage men to stay at home, to take time for the kids. We need to work on these two axes.”
Another recent initiative that has taken place thanks to Loubna Azghoud is the Women in Tech. That program aims to “promote women in ITC by offering them the support and specific trainings they need.”
Through collaborations and similar values of gender equality, initiatives as such are fundamental in the path towards gender equality in a tech world. Empowering women will bring us more than equality and additional labor force. It will bring new views in fields where sharing ideas are key for success.
Any advice for women who want to start their business?
“Do it, don’t hesitate! Also, choose the right collaborators, don’t stay alone.”