Empowered by the economic boom, women are able to assert themselves as a driving force in the entrepreneurial environment. Hampered by their specific problems, however, they struggle to reach their full potential. At AXA, we want to remove those obstacles.
Women are an essential force in the economy. They own one third of all companies, their overall revenue should reach $6,000 billion in 2017 and, in the insurance industry, they represent a market of nearly $800 billion. Their weight in the global economy is set to increase. In the United States of America, the growth of companies led by women is twice as fast, and nearly four times faster in East Asia.
Women have an entrepreneurial spirit: I have noticed this all over the world, and experienced it myself when I created a consulting start-up in the financial sector before my 30th birthday. At AXA, it took us some time to realise the full extent of this reality. But after the SheForShield* report was published, we decided to step up our game. That is when I was entrusted with the complex but fascinating challenge of developing the strategic focus for women entrepreneurs.
My first surprise when I got started was to notice our lack of information on this part of the public. As such, it was difficult to identify their expectations. I then decided to find out more about these women, drawing on our partnership with GIH (Global Invest Her), which supports business creation and the search for funding by women. I also relied on surveys, micro-polling and discussions with women attending events related to female entrepreneurship.
Who did I meet? Very different women operating in emerging or mature markets, with a burgeoning or well established business, but sharing the same fears and questions. None of them lacked the courage to get started, but all of them felt unequipped to succeed in their project. They are faced with specific difficulties that require bespoke solutions: pregnancy, child-rearing, running the household, and more. Although we can see positive developments, women continue to be chiefly responsible for organising the household. These forced absences are clearly a threat to the future of their businesses.
Since we want to help them reconcile their business adventure with their personal life, we have developed new services. In Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, we offer SMEs an early advance on costs if any damage endangers the survival of their business. We also work alongside women to create a business continuity plan in the event of personal disability under our personal protection insurance.
Supporting women entrepreneurs is key to the economy. If the employment rate of women equalled that of men in 15 of the major emerging economies, the per capita GDP would increase by more than 20% by 2030! By insuring women, we support global economic growth. Inspired by this conviction, AXA has set itself a target, namely that 30% of the SMEs (fewer than 50 employees) that it insures are led by women, and a goal, namely becoming the favourite insurer for women.
* 2015 study conducted jointly by AXA, IFC-World Bank and Accenture in the women’s insurance market.