The status of women in society, employment and business is a timeless topic. The countries of the European Union have been dealing with women – their position in the labour market and in society – for a long time, and one of the first documents entitled ”Agreement on equal pay for men and women for equal work” was signed in 1951. Other common documents adopted at EU level concern equal rights for women and men, the position of women in the labour market, pay and non-discrimination. Slovakia has gender equality enshrined in the Constitution of the Slovak Republic and equality between men and women is also dealt with, for example, in the Anti-Discrimination Act or the Labour Code.
Women are now a natural part of the labour market. This can also be seen in women’s economic activity, which is rising in all EU countries, albeit at a slower rate than men’s. The highest percentage of economically active women is in the Nordic countries of Europe, while the lowest percentage of economically active women is in Central Europe, the Balkans, Malta and Italy.
Despite a number of measures, guidelines and regulations, there is a long-standing gender pay gap that is closing only very slowly. In all EU countries, women are paid less than men. And while there are a number of theories to explain the gender pay gap, closing the pay gap is a long-term process. In some EU countries (e.g. Germany, UK, Czech Republic), lower female unemployment rates are associated with higher rates of pay inequality. However, this relationship cannot be generalised. Romania, for example, has both the lowest female unemployment rate and the lowest pay inequality.
In Slovakia, despite year-on-year fluctuations, women’s economic activity is on the rise. Women in Slovakia are interested not only in employment but also in entrepreneurship. This trend is also reflected in the growing number of female entrepreneurs – natural persons. Based on statistical data, it can be stated that in Slovakia, women aged 40–49 are the most frequent entrepreneurs, and women aged 70 and over are the least frequent entrepreneurs. Depending on the legal form, female entrepreneurs most often operate as one-person limited companies or female sole traders. The most common business activities of women are health care, social work, administrative services and education. Female entrepreneurs account for around 30% of all entrepreneurs in Slovakia and this share is slightly lower compared to the EU average.
On the basis of a questionnaire survey conducted by the SBA, the basic characteristics of female entrepreneurs operating in the Slovak Republic were identified. Female entrepreneurs in Slovakia are aged 30–39, live in the city and have attained a university degree. They are married and have 2–3 children. They operate mainly as natural persons in the field of other services. They have been on the market for 1–5 years and are mostly self-employed, with no employees. According to the number of employees and the annual turnover, which is less than EUR 50,000, they belong to the group of small and medium-sized enterprises. Starting a business for female entrepreneurs is mainly related to the need for self-fulfilment and to negative experience gained from employment (frustration with previous work, or not finding a suitable job). In the early days of their business, they were mainly assisted by a spouse/partner, or they started without advice or help. The female entrepreneurs run their business primarily in their own premises and sell the resulting products via the internet. They offer their products all over the country, and their reasons for doing business in their chosen sector/area were primarily that they saw an opportunity to make a name for themselves in the market, but also that they have been inclined towards what they are doing in business since they were very young. Although in most cases the subject of the business is related to the field of study, the female entrepreneurs admitted that they changed the subject of the business during performing their business activity. The fact that female entrepreneurs are interested in learning and development was also reflected in the fact that they had taken some course(s) before or during their entrepreneurship. Nowadays, they are primarily motivated in business by the possibility of self-fulfilment, independence and autonomous decision-making.
In line with the conclusions of the meeting and the roundtable discussion, the Slovak female entrepreneur can be further characterised by additional features. These include, for example, the fact that entrepreneurship helps women synchronise family, profession and self-fulfilment. Entrepreneurship has enabled women to be active and has become a way of life for them, an important complement to their sense of life. Women in business, according to the female entrepreneurs themselves, do not lose their feminine identity in business and at the same time mentoring, sharing ideas, thoughts and experience is important for them.
Female entrepreneurs in Slovakia are ambitious and optimistic women, young in spirit, who know what they want and are not afraid to implement their plans, even if it is not always easy.