BUSINESSES OPERATED BY WOMEN: COMPETITIVE STRATEGIES AND PERFORMANCE DIFFERENTIALS IN THE ITALIAN MANUFACTURING SECTOR

The topic of female enterprises has been the focus of much debate in recent years, both internationally and nationally. Although Italy is still perceived at a disadvantaged position in terms of gender equality, in comparison with other European countries, the country has moved proactively in recent years to encourage greater participation of women in corporate management.

In a recent contribution, the Intesa Sanpaolo Research Department has set itself the goal of highlighting the specificities of female entrepreneurship in Italy. The analysis shows that, in the Italian manufacturing context, businesses operated by women spread over a plurality of sectors, including those with high capital intensity and research and development, and mainly concern smaller businesses. Despite the small average size, the strategic profile shows a significant propensity of businesses operated by women for international projection, accompanied by increased attention to marketing and (limited to larger companies) innovation. However, no different trend in turnover and profitability compared to the rest of the Italian manufacturing sector emerged @.

As part of an international agreement which offers a framework of action to facilitate access to credit for female businesses in the various phases of a company's lifecycle or the working life of freelance professionals, with a range of services known as “Business Gemma”, we allocated a total of 600 million euro credit line – available until 31 December 2017 – for businesses run by women and for women freelance workers. 657 loans for almost 16 million euro were disbursed in 2015. The "Business Gemma" loan also offers the chance to freely benefit from the special segment guarantee of the “SMEs Guarantee Fund” dedicated to female businesses and to request, once during the repayment period, up to twelve-month suspension of the instalment repayment of the loan principal amount in the event of maternity leave, serious illness (also of the spouse and children) or disabling illness of a parent, blood relative or relative by marriage up to the third degree who lives with the applicant. The Business Gemma services also include an insurance policy that offers insurance cover and welfare services aimed at addressing the problems of balancing private and professional life. The areas of action envisaged are maternity, assistance, aid and legal protection in times of difficulty of the private life of the business woman and illness. The new policies underwritten during 2015 were 66.

The Intesa Sanpaolo Group’s International Subsidiary Banks are also active in supporting female entrepreneurship. Banca Intesa Beograd in Serbia has developed a credit line at special conditions for female entrepreneurs in the province of Vojvodina. The credit line includes loans to purchase equipment for setting up small businesses and for the development of start-ups created by unemployed women. In 2015 the range was expanded with lines of credit for female entrepreneurs in cooperation with the EBRD. In all, the Bank granted over 1.9 million euro to 180 women.

In Croatia, the collaboration continued between Privredna Banka Zagreb and Adria Women Association for the development of female enterprises through dedicated training initiatives, online magazines and weekly newsletters. The Bank sponsors events, participates in training sessions and contributes to the preparation of e-learning materials. In 2015 it has also participated in the organization of the "best women entrepreneur reward".

In cooperation with the "Impact Hub” start-up incubator and the "Evita” magazine, VÚB Banka has organized an intensive corporate training course lasting three days. Seminars, workshops, opinion leaders and motivation, these were the expectations of participants in the "Ladies Business Academy 2015". The 20 participating women entrepreneurs had the opportunity to become familiar with the fundamentals of working techniques, pricing and marketing, and to work on their business plan under the supervision of experienced professionals. The best were rewarded with a 1-year mentoring course and the opening of free business account for two years at the Bank.