Women on top: How we can empower female entrepreneurs in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia

A new report from Emerging Europe is a testament to the indomitable spirit of women entrepreneurs across the region and a roadmap for stakeholders to champion the cause of female entrepreneurship across the globe.

Produced in partnership with the She’s Next Empowered by Visa initiative, a major new report from Emerging Europe has revealed several key insights into the state of female entrepreneurship across Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.  

This comprehensive research sheds light on the aspirations, hurdles, and triumphs of women entrepreneurs in these vibrant regions, highlighting a path forward towards greater economic inclusion and prosperity. 

Central to the report is the recognition of women’s strong entrepreneurial spirit. “Women want a better life, and their own company is a means to achieve this goal,” the report notes, highlighting the drive for financial independence, personal fulfillment, and the pursuit of dreams as key motivators for women embarking on their entrepreneurial journeys. 

This entrepreneurial drive is further amplified by a commitment to hard work, perseverance, and a positive outlook towards future opportunities. 

“In this research, we wanted to explore female entrepreneurship as deeply as possible and understand all potential obstacles that might influence the businesses and start-ups women create in eleven countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus,” says Andrew Wrobel, founding partner of Emerging Europe.  

“We also wanted to understand their particular needs, as well as potential solutions that could empower them and help their businesses thrive and grow internationally.” 

Educational advancement as a catalyst for growth 

The report, published this week, reveals a striking correlation between the level of education and the success rate of female entrepreneurs.  

Emerging Europe’s research underscores education as a crucial lever for scaling businesses, with those attaining higher educational levels more likely to helm successful ventures.  

This finding spotlights the critical role of education in empowering women to break through the entrepreneurial ceiling and achieve greater heights. 

“Any woman can start a small business, but when it comes to scaling up our research suggests that the higher the level of education, the more successful the female entrepreneur will be,” says Wrobel. 

Bridging the gender gap 

The report also finds that despite their optimism and resilience, women entrepreneurs continue to navigate a landscape marred by gender discrimination, particularly in male-dominated industries.  

Cultural norms and societal expectations pose significant challenges in many countries, often hindering women’s full participation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  

The report calls attention to the persistent gender gap, advocating for targeted interventions to support and uplift female entrepreneurs. 

In the face of these challenges, female entrepreneurs are not deterred. Instead, they leverage their strengths—motivation, creative thinking, and a robust work ethic—to carve out niches for themselves and their businesses.  

Networking emerges as a vital strategy, enabling women to connect, share experiences, and foster collaborative opportunities that transcend geographical and cultural boundaries. 

“Through motivation, hard work, self-discipline, persistence, creative thinking, risk-taking, confidence, continuous learning, and valuable professional relationships, women refuse to give up,” the report emphasizes.  

This resilience, coupled with an inherently optimistic outlook, propels women entrepreneurs towards exploring new opportunities and markets, even in the face of uncertainty. 

The path to empowerment 

The She’s Next report serves as both a reflection on the state of female entrepreneurship and a call to action. It advocates for greater access to education, financial resources, and networking opportunities as essential ingredients for fostering a more inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial landscape.  

The She’s Next digital community platform, a key part of the initiative, takes these efforts to empower female leaders and entrepreneurs to a new level. 

“Having extensively researched the real needs and struggles of businesswomen, we have created a space where they can find endless opportunities in one place,” says Cristina Doros, Visa Senior Vice President and Group Country Manager for 17 countries. 

By shining a spotlight on the unique challenges and needs of women entrepreneurs, the initiative aims to catalyse change, promoting gender equality and economic prosperity in emerging regions. 

By highlighting the specific needs and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs meanwhile, the initiative sets the stage for a more inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial landscape, while bringing to the fore the remarkable tenacity of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia’s female entrepreneurs in the face of many challenges.  

As one business owner puts it, “If you send me to space tomorrow, no problem. I can develop a business from there.” 

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash.

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