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Driving Equity: The Latest on Women in Innovation

Core to our mission is empowering women in STEM and business, both sectors with intense barriers to their participation. That’s why we support this year’s International Women’s Day theme of equity. We put that idea to action through programmes specially designed to uplift women forging innovation.

This 8 March, we’re using the opportunity presented to us by International Women’s Day to highlight why equity is important with a sneak peek of our latest study on women in innovation. Women are an important source of talent that too often gets turned away from tech and business by both historical inequality and a culture that discourages them from joining. The latest study from Dealroom and Supernovas, our EIT Community initiative to support women business creators, gives us incredible input on how inclusivity unlocks new potential for innovation in Europe and what Europe needs to do to break down the barriers still in place.

Data that drives us forward

Studies already show that women’s perspectives are more important than ever to reduce the biases that are already creeping into future tech sectors like AI. Diversity at the top of a business boosts its financial success over time compared to competitors without that diversity. That was proven in Dealroom and Supernovas’ latest study, which found that women-founded tech scale-ups in Europe increased their value 6.5x, growing 1.2x faster than the rest of scale-ups over the past five years.

Women have gained ground but still face a hostile playing field

Supernovas’ latest study found that the 2021-2022 period had seen the most venture capital investment in women-founded scale-ups with over USD 9 billion invested over those two years. European investors have been providing the largest share of VC capital for European scale-ups founded by women since 2020.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done to reach a more equitable gender balance. Out of over 7 000 European scaleups, only 604 (8%) had at least one woman on their founding team. That’s why we continue to make women a central focus of our efforts.

Findings reveal benefits of women in leadership and the barriers to their success

  • Women-founded businesses are significantly more likely to focus on sustainability, with nearly 1 in 4 women-led scale-ups working to fight climate change
  • Women-founded businesses converted a higher percentage of rounds from Seed to Series A (funding during the early stages of their business growth) in a shorter period of time than the European benchmark, but are still disadvantaged in late-stage investment rounds
  • There is an especially high growth of women founded scale-ups in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland — they grew 16.6x since 2017

EIT programmes are designed to bring down the barriers to women

The EIT Community is home to many programmes specifically designed to help women overcome obstacles to starting their own businesses and getting their ideas off the ground. Women and girls can join our Community whether they’re still students in secondary school or well into their careers.

  • Supernovas, the producer of the study, is also a programme currently creating a new innovation ecosystem of women across Europe. Their different activities promote women at all levels, from those trying to start a business to women who want to be venture investors to those seeking to improve their leadership skills.
  • Girls Go Circular is available any girl aged 14-19 and provides online learning modules in how to conduct research, run campaigns, develop business plans, and much more. The programme’s ultimate goal is to empower learners to become agents of change in the EU green transition and make them confident enough to enter STEM disciplines and start their own businesses.
  • Empowering Women in Agrifood is a project that promotes female entrepreneurship in the agrifood sector and boosts the amount of women in leadership positions. It is a six-month incubation programme, offering continuous support to selected entrepreneurs through trainings, networking opportunities, and personalised business mentoring .
  • Women Entrepreneurship Bootcamp is a five week programme for new health sector businesses led by women, offering business and product trainings, mentoring, and networking.
  • Strada is a leadership development programme for women who want to become leaders in the manufacturing sector (applications are open this year until April 28).
  • LEADERS invites women innovators in manufacturing to join and compete for the top three monetary prizes after a period of online pitch training (applicants will be able to join this year after 10 May and until 5 July).
  • The EIT Women Award is our way of celebrating the women breaking barriers in Europe for other innovative women. 2022’s winner was Catherine Schreiber, CEO and Co-Founder of ADVITOS, a company producing a 4-in-1 organ support therapy for critically-ill patients. She also helps other women business leaders overcome psychological barriers to running an enterprise.

The full Supernovas study will be published 16 May

You can already ask for more details by reaching out to:

Read the full Executive Summary