Women in Business and in Decision Making
Entrepreneurs’survey: National Report
The methodology applied by Italy to collect data and build frames reflects the
indications given by Eurochambres.
Some problems arose during the analysis of answers because some female
entrepreneurs had not strictly followed the instructions. Anyhow, as the percentage of
these answers was low, it didn’t prevent to picture a realistic overview of the main
features of women entrepreneurs for the project purposes.
The Italian findings focus on the analysis of the trends, the classification of type of
enterprise, the entrepreneurs’ profile and their participation in decision making process
and end with an overall conclusion on the results obtained.
It is interesting to highlight that Italian Chambers of Commerce have just created an
Observatory on Women Entrepreneurship – based on the Business Register owned by
Chambers, which allows to extract exhaustive statistical data on female
Analysis of the results
A. Type of enterprises
In 66,2% of the cases, the interviewed female enterprises are micro (from 1 to 9
Small female enterprises (from 10 to 49 employees) represent, in the analysis, 29,4%;
whilst the percentage of medium enterprise falls to 4,4% and of large enterprises to
The most recurring sectors of activities are manufacturing, followed by commerce, by
services and, less frequently, by building industry, by agro-industry and finally by
B. Profile of business women
In Italy, Chambers of commerce own the business register and all enterprises are compelled to register.
The level of education is, for the majority of interviewed women, secondary education
(51,5%), university education (39,7%), often completed by postgraduate courses. The
percentage of female entrepreneurs which, stopped studying at 15 years old, is 8.8%.
Among those who finished university education (Law, Economics, Languages, Biology,
etc.), most of them have gone through a specialisation with targeted training or
masters, or vocational training or specific seminars.
Interviewed women declare to have a husband (78,7%) and children (78,4%).
The percentage of women who have help at home is 76,6%, whilst only 23,4% doesn’t.
1. The 56,1% of women replied that they always have been self-employed. The other
43,9% declared to have been employee for different jobs : in general, before been self-
employed, these women have tried one or two jobs as employee.
According to 5 classes of age estimated within the current analysis, the majority of
women entrepreneurs have launched their activity between 20 and 25 years old; less
represented are, in decreasing order, 26-30 years old class, 31-35 years old and, with
the same frequency, class from 36 to 40 and class over 41 years old.
Clearly it appears that the absolute majority of interviewed women work more than 48
hours per week in their business; only a few work less than 35 hours; instead 45-48
hours class, 40-44 hours class and 35-39 hours class have, in decreasing order,
a) Concerning the drivers which motivated the interviewed women to start their business,
the results are: did not want to work for others (50,0%), self-achievement (48,5%) and
want for control and freedom to make my own decisions (42,6%).
Less frequent are confidence in products/services offered (35,3%), profit (27,9%), other
reasons (26,5%) and last for social status (4,4%).
2. Starting from scratch represent 45,3% of female enterprises whilst enterprise
switchover represents 43,7% of interviewed female.
Minimal is instead the frequency of those who bought an enterprise or shares of it,
For 72,1% of interviewed women the current enterprise is their first entrepreneurial
For 27,9% of interviewed women, they had other entrepreneurial experiences before
the current one: most of these enterprises are still active (47,1%), or they have been
sold (29,4%) or they are not under any category of the survey (23,5%). But none of
them went bankrupt.
3. The main obstacles faced while launching a business are: conciliation of family and
work life (41,2%), finding the right business contacts (32,3%), lack of
information/knowledge (30,9%) and access to finance (23,5%).
There were few replies for: no obstacles or other reasons (14,7%) and self-confidence
During the development and consolidation of the enterprise, the main obstacles for
interviewed entrepreneurs were : conciliation of family and work life (44,1%), lack of
time for training/upgrading skills (39,7%), liquidity and other financial problems (26,5%).
Less frequent, gaining the acceptance/respect of people (20,6%) and no obstacles
4. The above listed obstacles have been overcome thanks to family collaboration, to
specific courses, to chamber and/or professional bodies’ counselling, to personal
qualities as firmness, to women entrepreneurs’ bush telegraph, and for financial
aspect, through loans and/or self-financing.
C. Participation in decision-making bodies
The total of interviewed women take actively part in decision making process, almost
always appealing to “owner power”, but also through the analysis of new projects, in
the light of the experience acquired with past and present owned businesses, through
external and internal contacts management and generally through on-going dialogue
with their enterprise’s human resources.
In addition to participating to the decision making process of their own company,
87,9% of interviewed women take actively part to other organizations/bodies, which
according to the answers received are sectoral associations, Committees for the
promotion of women entrepreneurship, town councils, boards of auditors and/or of
directors of no profit companies, trade unions and, in a minor way, to Chamber of
There is no obstacle for participating in decision making process for 44,1% of women
entrepreneurs but what prevents from being more active is too much time taken up by
business activities (26,5%), family obligations (17,6%), competition (14,7%), other
reasons (13,2%) and for no interest in participating (3%).
Measures which would help to increase the participation in decision making of
Chamber bodies or other organizations/entities are, based on direct proposal of
interviewed women: more supporting staff, larger number of women in Chambers and
in Women entrepreneurship Committees, more information flows on access to finance,
the creation of an observatory with the aim to monitor female enterprises and study
deeply the trends.
Micro and small enterprises, according to EC definitions, represent today the most
widespread reality of female enterprises.
Average education background of women entrepreneurs is increasing: it is now widely
oriented to university degrees as the majority of the interviewed entrepreneurs (90%)
have secondary and university level of education. In fact, the high level of education
and young age of the interviewed entrepreneurs (20-25 years old) when they have
launched their first business is, by no doubt, the most significant finding of the current
The main obstacle faced during the start-up phase and the sub-sequent consolidation
phase of the business is combining family and work life, mostly overcome through “non
institutional” channels like family support and in a minor way, through the support of
sectoral associations and/or Chambers and/or services networks.
The frequent problems are access to finance and credit and most of the interviewed
entrepreneurs have expressed the will to see more involvement on this issue from
Chambers of Commerce.
The awareness to increase the role of women in the local development is testified by
the high degree of participation in “internal decision-making process” or in those of
public or private bodies/organizations.
Concerning Chambers of commerce, the increase of value of the women human
resources in the decision-making bodies, - i.e. empowering women – is still today in an