Female Entrepreneurs in the Netherlands Face More Obstacles than Men

By Maya Auer and Louis Brady

February 17th 2022. Female entrepreneurs in the Netherlands find it harder to establish and sustain businesses than men, a report commissioned by leading bank ABN AMRO has revealed.

The report, which was released on 16 February, states that women find it more difficult than men to access capital and financial advice. One reason is that women generally feel less comfortable pitching their ideas in predominantly male business settings.

The number of female entrepreneurs in the Netherlands has grown by 25% since 2015, more than male-led businesses. However, women still account for only 35% of entrepreneurs nationwide. 

“The report is a starting point,” says Chantal Korteweg, the newly appointed Director of Inclusive Banking at ABN AMRO. Korteweg initiated this study, which was conducted with McKinsey and Better Future, in October 2021 to “make the problems for female entrepreneurs transparent.”

Groningen-based entrepreneur Johanna Spiller has witnessed the difficulties in accessing capital while founding her own business, Klapstoel Academy. “I am held back by the idea that no one would invest anyway. I’ve never even asked. I think a lot of fellow female entrepreneurs have that feeling too, they think their business isn’t scalable enough to get funding or that they are just not ready yet.”

Spiller has self-funded Klapstoel Academy, which seeks to connect other young female entrepreneurs with business leaders and train companies in gender equality.

Successful networking is another main obstacle for female entrepreneurs. “I think male entrepreneurs are so good at what they are doing because they naturally build a network,” Spiller told 9to5. “If you go to a network event with 70 people and 68 look exactly like you, think like you, and are in the same industry as you, you connect so much easier. When you are a woman going in there, it can be very intimidating.”

Johanna Spiller is the founder of Groningen based Klapstoel Academy

Spiller is trying to improve women’s access to business networking in the north of the Netherlands. Her initiative VrouwMibo aims to bring female entrepreneurs together in Groningen to share experiences and provide role models for each other. “It’s all about networks at the end,” Spiller says.

For Korteweg, the large banks should also facilitate business networking for women: “Events are often after 5pm when women are more likely to have childcare commitments.” Korteweg also told 9to5 that she wants to implement more coaching and mentoring programs for female entrepreneurs.

“We also need to change the language around banking to make it more inclusive and appealing to women without stereotyping,” Korteweg adds. “Masculine language is often more transactional. It’s about ‘doing the deal’. Whereas feminine language emphasizes relationships, connection and empathy.”

This week’s report from ABN AMRO shows that supporting female entrepreneurs is not only beneficial for women. It predicts that enabling female entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses at the same rate as male-led businesses could generate an additional €139 billion for the Dutch economy every year.

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