Gender equality is a key challenge in the strategy the European Union is implementing for economic growth and employment. The “Europe 2020” strategy sets a goal of a 75% employment rate from women and men between the ages of 20 and 64, and the European Commission’s strategy for equality between women and men (2010-2015) recommends “using the potential and the reservoir of women’s talents more intensely and more effectively in order to increase economic and commercial benefits.” However, achieving these objectives remains compromised by obstacles that women face on the labour market and in their business creation projects. The involvement of cities remains an approach that is rarely supported, even though it is a key factor of progress. The URBACT WEED project therefore focussed on identifying and developing integrated local actions that improve women’s situation in employment, entrepreneurship and the knowledge economy. A considerable challenge for the partners was to juggle between their initial objectives and a context of economic crisis that was hardly favourable in order to make gender equality a local policy priority.

Main Results

Through transnational sharing and analysis of examples of effective actions and Local Action Plans, the partner cities of the WEED project were able to develop new solutions to counter the obstacles that women face in employment, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Upon completion of the URBACT WEED project, the network formulated the following conclusions:

Municipalities have a role to play in supporting women and their entrepreneurial projects:

  • By setting up measures in schools for early intervention in fighting deep-seated attitudes concerning career choices for girls and boys and the roles of women and men.

  • By making micro-financing accessible to women.

  • By developing more integrated and more innovative support for business creation and growth.

At a local level, it is possible to act on the quality of women’s employment:

  • If employers create working conditions that are more favourable to family life.

  • If training flexible training activities open up new careers that are less gender-determined.

  • If social enterprises are encouraged to create new areas of growth.

Gender inequality in the knowledge economy can be overcome by:

  • Through interesting and better-targeted training, including local work based on knowledge centres.

  • By making the environment more favourable to women and the family.

  • By effective regional partnership between municipalities and universities.

A compilation of the best city initiatives listed by challenge

Throughout the WEED project, the partner city network organised working meetings on the three major topics that served as a framework for developing their Local Action Plans. These meetings led to the publication of collections of good local practices led by eight partner cities as well as by other European and North American municipalities. These documents represent a lasting source of ideas for cities that would like to launch similar projects.

  • Women and entrepreneurship in times of crisis
  • Women, research and the knowledge economy
  • Gender inequality at work and on the employment market

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“Municipalities have a role to play in supporting women’s entrepreneurial projects.”