Exploring the Ever-Growing Power of Women in Greece – with Athina Nousiopoulou
The role of women is one that is constantly evolving, and its evolution is taking shape in different ways across different cultures, markets, and regions of the world. Particularly interesting and inspiring is the rising tide of female entrepreneurs in Greece.
Grounded in the ancient origins of the days of the Greek mythology with prominent figures like Zeus and Athina, Greece has evolved over thousands of years to become this fascinating society that is both patriarchal while holding a strong respect for the feminine. Which now leads us to ask: what does that evolution look like today in modern-day society and the burgeoning Greek tech ecosystem?
To learn more, we sit down with an inspiring leader of the Greek business world with a deep commitment to female professionals and entrepreneurs across Greece, Athina Nousiopoulou.
With a background in international business, marketing, and PR and communications, Athina is experienced across key Greek industries and has spent the last half decade working closely with the startup community, managing programs at the Entrepreneurship Hub of the ACT School of Business and PR at local Thessaloniki startup space OKThess. Most, Athina joined the team at ISOMAT, the leading producer of building chemicals and mortals with multinational presence, whose strategic vision is built upon the female mindset – with women making up over half of the total number of employees and many of them in leadership roles.
Today, Athina shares with us her background, experiences, and results from a comprehensive study she conducted on the motivators and trends of female entrepreneurship in Greece.
Female Entrepreneurs in Greece & Why They Started Their Businesses
This month, I completed a year-long research project to better understand the trends and mindsets of female entrepreneurs in Greece. I was enthusiastic to see women set their own business goals, and fund and build their own businesses. And I was curious to see why this was happening, especially during the crisis. To begin, I wanted to find all the factors that were motivating women to create their own businesses.
From previous research, I noticed that during the last decade, Greek women here in Greece decided to become entrepreneurship in varying percentages. I began to wonder how and why this happened – was it the crisis and survival need that urged women to start businesses, or was it something else?
So, I conducted primary research with a Greece-wide questionnaire, collecting insights from women who were business owners — and who started their own business during the last decade. Over 100 women from all over Greece responded to the questionnaire, and the results were both interesting and shocking. I started out with a hypothesis that the crisis forced these women to do something different because they were unable to find a job, when the results showed that 90% said their starting a business had nothing to do with the crisis – it only had to do with their willingness to start one. Meaning that regardless of the financial and economic state, these women would have gone on to start their own businesses.
The survey also revealed that there were no special difficulties for these women as they were trying to develop their business. While 50% of the female respondents said they faced difficulties because of their sex, the other 50% said that they faced difficulties that had nothing to do with their sex; which was quite interesting to see. There were of course women who said they found environment difficulty from the men, but at the same time, women who said the fact that they were women was not an obstacle for them in order to proceed. Moreover, most women shared that they did not face any challenges when trying to find money to support their businesses; due to the fact that majority of these women were seeking initial capital amounts of €10,000 to €20,000, which they could find pull together from savings, loans, and family and friends.
At the same time, I conducted give interviews with well-known female entrepreneurs in Greece. These five women had totally different backgrounds and lives, and their businesses were all in different industries and areas of technology. Some were in tech and startups, others were in the press and education, another owned a pastry shop — all different but very successful. And their interviews echoed the results of the survey – all of them started their businesses in the last decade and it had nothing to do with the crisis. It was simply because they wanted to do it.
“… all of them started their businesses in the last decade and it had nothing to do with the crisis. It was simply because they wanted to do it.”
What I really loved from these interviews was hearing the real-world stories of how these women first started, the difficulties they faced as business owners, and how they managed and overcame their challenges. And the most interesting thing was that each woman had something different to share about how they managed and built their business. (I was able to find five truly magnificent women – I wish I could create a panel of all of them so other women could hear their stories!) And of course, all five women also said that if the opportunity presented itself, they would do it again and again… and again. If they had to start again, every single one said without a doubt that they would do it again.
“[All the women] said that if the opportunity presented itself, they would do it again and again… and again. If they had to start again, every single one said without a doubt that they would do it again.”
Today’s Women Want to Build, Create, Experience
Today in Greece, society is changing and social norms have changed. We see it in the new roles and backgrounds of the women of today’s society. Women are now more educated. They are going out of their family and the traditional ways of life. Today’s woman is attending seminars, getting involved, developing her own skills beyond that of staying home and taking care of the family.
“Today’s woman has started envisioning herself in a totally different way than in previous decades. “
Today’s woman has started envisioning herself in a totally different way than in previous decades. In previous decades, women would work but not that much because family should have been and was the most important thing in a woman’s life. They would be educated to a certain point and then if they could work, that would be fine. But now, more and more women are getting their masters, MBAs, PhDs, and just moving forward. Creating a family and making children are of less importance than in past decades, because today there are more of other things that hold significance in their lives.
“The women of today want to do things, they want to move, they want to build, create, experience.”
Because of this, I’m very positive on the future of the Greek tech ecosystem. Through my experience working closely with female entrepreneurs over the last five years, I see more and more young ladies taking steps to find their way in entrepreneurship. I’m more and more positive that we will see more women in this and I’m really glad about this.
The women of today want to do things, they want to move, they want to build, create, experience. This is what changed. In previous decades, they were working in other businesses and not so much creating their own businesses.
The Single Most Important Piece of Advice: Support One Another, Grow Together
All my life, I have been supported by women and I am here because of the women out there who have believed in me. And these women were not in my family, they were powerful friends and mentors who gave me positivity and new perspectives. It is these women who embody the positive characteristics of entrepreneurship and power. They’ve managed to go through all the obstacles they have, but they remained resilient – they just wanted to do it and they did it.
“We need to support one another as individuals. It is the women who are next to you who best understand your needs and wishes, and they will support you.
So, what I always say when mentoring young ladies is that they need to be with people who will support their dreams. And to do this not just by relying on your family, but creating a close network of friends around them. We need to support one another as individuals. It is the women who are next to you who best understand your needs and wishes, and I am sure they will support you too.
“Whatever you want in your life, just do it. … You can do whatever you want in your life, you can achieve your dreams, and you can do everything.”
We need to send this positive message: whatever you want in your life, just do it. Follow your dreams and find the right women next to you to support you. Create your own network. Support each other, because they can believe in you. Because they have the same visions and dreams just like you, so they know what you are going through. You can do whatever you want in your life, you can achieve your dreams, and you can do everything.
Just find the right people so they can support you too and believe in you. Whether you want to become an entrepreneur, more educated, or have children and raise a family… if you create a right environment and support your dreams, then you will succeed it.
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