Despite recent progress, in Cyprus, the economic inclusion of women remains inadequate and there is evidence of sex-based segmentation at the high end of the labour market. Although the female labour-force participation rate of 57 per cent is higher than in neighbouring countries, it remains 11 per centage points lower than the participation rate for men. Much stronger discrepancies exist for women in senior positions. The female share of employment in senior and middle management stands at just 26 per cent, while only 8 per cent of firms have a top manager who is a woman (10 per centage points lower than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average).
Women entrepreneurs struggle to access finance and business skills training as they are often deemed risker clients for cultural reasons or lack traditional collateral. There is a need for tailored support to develop managerial skills and to abolish the gender or cultural bias in the labour market and financial products.
How we work
To help overcome these challenges, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) launched the Women in Business (WiB) programme in Cyprus, under the umbrella of the Bank’s Advice for Small Businesses (ASB) facility. The WiB helps women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to build skills and grow their businesses. The overarching objective of the EBRD’s small business support programme in Cyprus is to make local SMEs more competitive in a global economy and assist them with the introduction of new products and processes. The WiB programme provides women-led SMEs with direct assistance from experienced business advisers and local consultants, helping them adapt to the demands of a modern economy. It also grants 65-80 per cent of the total net cost of local consulting fees. Furthermore, women entrepreneurs receive training in key entrepreneurial skills through mentoring, workshops and networking opportunities.
Achievements and results
The WiB programme in Cyprus includes a toolkit dedicated to women entrepreneurs who are willing and eager to establish and grow their businesses. The EBRD expands access to business know-how and networks by providing advisory project support through local consultants and international advisers (62 women-led enterprises), entrepreneurial skills development training (28 women), mentoring (30 women-led enterprises) and outreach seminars, national and regional visibility events (328 women). Across the whole ASB programme, the EBRD has helped increase employment opportunities – 117 SMEs that received advisory services reported an increase in their number of employees and 93 reported an increase in female employment. In total, over 1,100 jobs were created, of which 410 are held by women. Of the SME advisory clients evaluated, 177 reported an increase in turnover one year after completing their programme – equivalent to an additional €153 million in turnover.
The Women in Business facility in Cyprus has received generous support from the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, as well as funding from the European Regional Development Fund.