Business woman, myth and reality24/07/2017

Dominique LEMAIRE, CARRESSIMO, wanted to try and define the word "enterprise" from a female perspective. To this end, I organised a brief interview with her. What do you think?

Business woman, myth and reality: defining "enterprise" from a female perspective

Being self-employed in Belgium is already a challenge in itself. What is the state of play, in 2017, if we look at doing business from a female perspective? A brief analysis of the situation, and testimony.

In terms of working life, more and more women are working: 55.32% in 2007 compared to 58% in 2015. The curve is therefore increasing which, however, is the complete opposite of the curve for entrepreneurship: in Belgium, only 1/3 of self-employed people are women. And among the various sectors of activity chosen, 125,983 have opted for the "liberal and intellectual professions" (39.3%), the rest being divided between the commerce sector (32.5%) and the services sectors (12.5%). Finally, only one quarter of these self-employed women are company directors.

As such, the world of entrepreneurship remains predominantly masculine. A possible cause is the fear of not being able to reconcile work and personal life. Because despite whatever one might say, even non-verbally, the "internal logistics" responsibilities (shopping, drop-offs at home/school/various and numerous extracurricular activities/illness(es)/homework, stewardship, etc.) still generally fall to women. Another factor: the single mothers who cannot or are unwilling to take the slightest financial risk.

Many of them therefore do not dare to embark on the great adventure of entrepreneurship. Which, strategically speaking, is possibly a mistake.

Muriel Gluza can testify to this. A lawyer by training, this young and dynamic thirty-year-old created the Felicitas platform last year, a cooperative that aims to support and supervise self-employed people through, among other things, operational audits. "I found that the greatest difficulty of this status is finding a balance between fulfilling one's professional desires and personal life. You need to give your spouse the opportunity to come on board and give their approval. You need to leave the door open".

Moreover, and contrary to what one might imagine in a world where decision-making positions remain the preserve of men, Muriel had no difficulty convincing her banker of the relevance and viability of her business.

>What are the necessary qualities to start up a business?

"Determination, and self-belief. Sometimes you need to hang in there, but you should never give up! Like everyone, I had moments of despair. During these moments, my strength is to tell myself that if it happens, there must be a reason. You need to look for the reason and draw conclusions from it. You need to know how to question yourself."

>Which criticisms do you hear most often?

"It depends. When they do the same job as me but don't live their lives the way I do, some women find me too extroverted. Men on the other hand criticise me for thinking too far ahead, for trying to envisage all eventualities".

Only advantages

Being a woman in the world of entrepreneurship has its advantages, precisely that of being a woman, and having the typically feminine ability to communicate: "Whether it's a man or a woman, my answer, in essence, will be the same. It's the form of the answer which will be different. Men think very differently from us, and prefer a clear and decisive answer. Unlike women, who prefer a more "packaged" answer. Whatever happens, you have to convince them both. You therefore need to adapt to the person in front of you and take advantage of what may be seen as disadvantages."

>Like seduction, for example? 

"I can indeed be friendly and very smiling, but I also know how to close the door, tacitly - and even tactically - to any ambiguity. That only becomes dangerous if things aren't clear in your head. You need to set your own boundaries and respect them".

>And on a day-to-day basis, in terms of private life, how does that work?

"I manage that very calmly. I am a "genuine" self-employed person (Editor's note: a reference to fake self-employed status) so I manage my time as I see fit.

The main advantage of this status is the freedom: I can stop at 4.00pm to go and pick up my son from school. But I can also decide to resume work at 10.00pm".


Sources : Inasti, SME Observatory and Dashboard for SMEs and self-employed entrepreneurs.

Muriel Gluza

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