Equality between men and women in education, economic decision-making and political power, and
women’s economic independence and equal earning potential are key for Europe’s future and feature
strongly on the EU’s agenda. The European Commission’s strategic engagement for gender equality
set the framework for EU action in 2016-2019 to promote equality between women and men, as one of
the Union’s fundamental values. The good news is that progress is being made. However, this progress
could be accelerated1.
The von der Leyen Commission has recently communicated the new gender strategy for the period
2020-20252, presented as one of the priorities of the new Commission. The strategy underlines the
importance of gender equality for achieving an economy that works for people, including when it
comes to female representation and involvement in the financial environment. The gender priority is
reiterated also in other key Commission documents, notably in the Recovery Plan for Europe
package3, the massive and innovative long-term EU budget boosted by Next Generation EU4, which is
aiming at recovering the economy while making it greener, fairer, more digital and resilient; and in the
proposal for vocational education and training5, in which one of the objectives is to promote equality
of opportunities, including promoting gender balance between traditional ‘male’ and ‘female’
professions by encouraging participation in vocational training.
InvestEU, the new investment programme to be launched in 2021 under the 2021-2027 multiannual
financial framework and financed by the Next Generation EU, is aimed at mobilising private and
public investment in Europe for more sustainable, inclusive and innovative growth. It places a clear
focus on social investment and a strong emphasis on measures to promote gender equality6.
This paper argues that empowering women as founders and investors is crucial to the achievement of
the InvestEU goals. Women tend to be associated with long-term, patient capital and more
social-impact investment. Women’s wealth is on the rise and represents a huge economic opportunity
to accelerate change towards a more diverse and sustainable financial system. There is evidence that
women entrepreneurs are missing out on funding all over the world7. On the basis of current trends, it
will take 202 years to close completely the gender gap in economic participation and opportunity8.
Traditionally, women feature as beneficiaries of social investment, as accessing finance is more
difficult for women entrepreneurs than it is for male entrepreneurs (European Commission & OECD,
2017; Leitch et al., 2018). This stems from a range of factors on the demand and supply side. Women
entrepreneurs might choose different business sectors, which in turn plays a part in fuelling the
funding gap (European Parliament, 2015), but there also seems to be a gender bias on the investors’
1 European Commission, 2019 report on equa lity between women and men in the EU.
2 Gender Equality Strategy 2020 – 2025 COM(2020)152 final, 04.03.2020
3 The EU budget powering the recovery plan for Europe COM(2020) 442 final, 27.5.2020
4 Europe's moment: Repair and Prepare for the Next Generation COM(2020) 456 final, 27.5.2020
5 Proposal for a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training (VET) for sustainable competitiveness,
social fairness and resilience SWD(2020) 123 final, 1.7.2020
6 e.g. Article 7 of the partial agreement on the Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council
establishing the InvestEU Programme COM/2018/439 final - 2018/0229 (COD) as amended by the European Parliament.
7 e.g. forthcoming study by EIB InnovFin Advisory, Why are female entrepr eneurs missing out on funding? (see section 4).
8 As estimated by the World Economic Forum (2018); see annex to this discussion paper.