There is no question about the gap in the financial strength that exists between women and men in the entire world. Despite legislative efforts, women still possess and earn less than men. They are more frequently threatened with unemployment and form the majority of atypical employees. The globalization of the economy has made the problem even more acute as international players are mostly men, who are usually more exposed to and therefore more comfortable with technology. It is obvious that additional action is required in order for women to claim equality in the business setting in the framework of a model of full democracy. One such example derives from a private initiative: the Women's Cooperative Bank of Cyprus 'Initiative' Ltd.
This was proven to be a necessity as Cyprus was excluded from almost all of the EU support towards the countries in accession due to its high living standards. What should have been taken into consideration here, however, is the low representation of women in almost all walks of life when compared to their EU counterparts.
In the sector of economic activity, for instance, the numbers of economically active women have remained somewhat stagnant, around 39% (38.7% in 1992 and 39.4% in1997), whereas in some EU countries, as in Sweden for example, the numbers of gainfully employed women exceed 50%. Moreover, the remuneration rates in Cyprus have clearly been in favor of men. In 1992, men's wages were 50.7% higher than those of women. The difference decreased to 36.2% in 1998 and is expected to decrease even further.
Although women today constitute some 40% of the labor force, their presence is not evenly distributed in all levels and sectors of activity. First, there is job segmentation. Women tend, for example, to do more clerical work (three out of four clerks are women). Second, they are underrepresented in decision-making positions (9% of Senior Officials/Legislators in 1992 were women, 17% in 1997 and 23% in the year 2000). Consequently, women are more frequently found in low-salaried jobs. There is only one woman among the cabinet ministers today and only six out of 56 Members of Parliament are women. In other words, women representation in the House of the Representatives is about 11%. Most astonishing a research of the Ministry of Labour shows that 55000 women age 18-55 are not actively involved in the economy.
A small-scaled research on Women Entrepreneurs in Cyprus indicates that it is basically the privileged women who manage to launch a venture in Cyprus . The question here is 'how many more less fortunate women are not in the position to invest in their entrepreneurial ideas because they don't have adequate bank guarantees and therefore don't have access to capital?'
All above-mentioned statistics were considered as a huge deficit by a dynamic group of women under the guidance of Artemis Toumazi, President of the Cyprus National Federation of Business and Professional Women - BPW Cyprus who decided to act by taking drastic and practical measures to empower women in the economy believing that female entrepreneurship could prove the emerging dynamic in the county's economy and at the same time prove the determining factor of the development of the hole society.
Developing women's entrepreneurship means creating employment, which results in reduced unemployment and welfare benefits. The ramifications further include a rise in the taxes and social insurance contributions collected by the state not only from women business owners themselves but also from their employees. In addition, it contributes to the increase of products, services, profits, and exports.
On the whole, it results in economic growth. Strengthening women economically is interrelated with enhancing their position in society in general and their representation in politics within the framework of the model of a full democracy, in particular, which eventually will result a balanced and secure future for all citizens.
The Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women's since the year 2000 started working towards a specific goal and the action plan had four main objectives, in order to boost entrepreneurial activity in Cyprus and help the shaping of a new European policy on Entrepreneurship.
A) The creation of a Co-operative Bank, which would, specialize on supporting and enhancing women entrepreneurial activities, as access to capital was recognized as the major impediment to women low entrepreneurial activity (only 12% in contrast to the EU average of 27%).
B) Research on female entrepreneurial activity in Cyprus .
The Board of the Coop bank realizing the gravity caused by the lack of data on female entrepreneurship on the island, instrumented the first large-scaled research on entrepreneurial activities undertaken by women in Cyprus, the results of which shed some light on the proportion of women-owned businesses to those created by men, the demographic and socioeconomic features of women entrepreneurs, their areas of activity, life cycle, and life expectancy, as well as women entrepreneurs' problems and needs.
The ultimate purpose is to use the findings of the research in order to have a spherical understanding of women-owned companies and to use this information to attract and distribute capital - in coordination with the government and other institutions - according to the recorded needs.
Some findings of this research point out that in 1995, about 58.000 enterprises were registered in the Registry of Establishments out of which approximately 7.000 were women-owned. This means that women owned almost 12% of the enterprises in Cyprus . In the same year, 117.000 were actively employed. In other words, the number of women who were self-employed or employers was about 6% . On the other hand women-owned businesses in the EU account for 27% (Eurostat, 1997) of privately-owned companies.
C) Lobbing the Government to take positive measures and change National Policy on women's issues. After 2 years of efforts the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Tourism in collaboration with BPW Cyprus and the Womens Co-op Bank created a Program for the support of Women's Entrepreneurship.
Document of the Scheme for the Encouragement, Strengthening and Reinforcement of Women' s Entrepreneurship attach
D) Participation in EU Programs
In collaboration with the European Chambers Women's Network we have participated in the program "Women in Business and in Decision-Making"
Documents of project proposal attach
In the new enlarged Europe in order for any policies to succeed there must be a common vision for the creation of a society that respects and considers all its citizens' men and women as humans, securing that although each can keep its individuality, there will be common channels of communication to lead to a common European vision, for the creation of a synchronized and democratic European society.
Cyprus Womens Co-op Bank