The countdown is almost over. The Lean In EU WBA (Women Business Angels) Pitching Battles event at the Starttech Ventures’ HQ is just 24 hours away. And Women Act are [almost] in the building. Let’s talk startup investments.

Talking startup investments and the female factor with Women Act

So, in anticipation of their presence on Thursday, February 22 to present their leadership program, we spoke to Co-founder Maria Gianniou. Maria is research associate at Athens University of Economics and Business. She’s also worked at the European Parliament. And she is also a scientific advisor to the Office of the Secretary General for European Affairs of the Hellenic Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Startup investments and the female factor

Much like Flavia Richardson of Funding London, and Tal Tochner of PICO Partners, Maria and Women Act share our enthusiasm for the Pitching Battles event.

An affiliated partner in the Lean In EU WBAs project, Women Act’s mission is clear. To empower women to fully embrace their political, social, cultural and economic potential. How? By actively participating in the public sphere.

Here’s what Maria had to say:

Q1: You’re in Athens taking part as part of the Pitching Battles event of the Lean In EU WBAs project. What do you think of the initiative?

A1: Women Act strongly supports initiatives that aim at helping active women advance their business ideas. During the last few years here in Greece, a great number of young people are taking the lead in business development. We have to encourage them, and most of all women, to break the stereotypes and chase their dreams! Especially in startup investments. The Pitching Battles serve a double cause. First they give women entrepreneurs the possibility to present their idea to stakeholders. And secondly, they encourage leadership!

Q2: So, Women Act. Tell us a bit about what you do. What activities and interests the organization is involved in and your roles in that picture?

A2: We want to empower women to fully embrace their political, social, cultural and economic potential by actively participating in the public sphere. We support equal opportunities for all. Women and men alike. And we promote women as leaders and agents of change. Our activities include training and networking, and aim at motivating women to claim leadership positions. You can find out more about us by visiting our website or our FB page.

Q3: What do you think of the startup scene as far as the female factor is concerned? Is enough happening to address the imbalance, for whatever the reasons behind it are?

A3: The startup investments scene in Greece is generally made up of young people and focuses, to a great extent, on STEM. This is a domain where, unfortunately, women are still under-represented. Nevertheless, we are glad to see some initiatives put forward by young women who challenge the status quo. Business angels’ communities have to encourage and support these women. Women Act raises awareness by promoting their work to the general public. Not only that, but we also help them to become role models for other young women. Change will only come if different examples are there to inspire!

Q4. What is the role of women in leadership nowadays in Greece (in comparison to abroad)? Are there significant differences in the private vs. public sector?

A4: Regarding the representation of women in positions of power, Greece has one of the lowest scores. According to the recent EIGE report on gender equality, Greek women are constantly under-represented in all domains of decision-making. This includes politics, media, sports, research, larger listed companies etc. For instance, in Greece women account for less than 10 % of board members. While regarding participation in the labor market Greece finds itself at the bottom of the ranking. In order to address this situation, there is much to do. Women Act promotes gender mainstreaming in all policy areas. We develop partnerships that with various institutions and structures. Both in the public and private sectors. And we put forward initiatives and projects that take into consideration the gender perspective, promote equality and combat discrimination.

Q5. The ideal female leader’s profile in entrepreneurship. What are the ideal characteristics, and what are the obstacles and challenges she has to tackle?

A5: The challenges are many. Especially in Greece where stereotypes still shape common belief. Each woman is a different person. And there is no copy/paste recipe for success. Yet, a female leader is a person who observes, receives information and takes the time to process. Above all, she is a person who knows how to listen. And reaches out to the world with empathy and firmness.


Graham Wood Graham Wood

The Starttech Ventures Storyteller. Studied Journalism with Business at the University of Central Lancashire. Has worked in various product marketing management positions for the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Vodafone, as well as in several journalism and media roles since 2000.