Why we write on this topic:
Diversity leads to more creativity and innovation in the corporate world. We are therefore closely monitoring all developments in this area.
The start-up community Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) Rotterdam now has something to celebrate with a glass of champagne. There, the proportion of women entrepreneurs has risen to 20 percent, twice as high as before. “You can talk endlessly about diversity, but you can also do something about it,” says General Manager Joyce Kornet-Vreugdenhil.
Times may change, but the proportion of female and male entrepreneurs is far from equal. For her part, Kornet-Vreugdenhil is leading changes in the world of start-ups through CIC Rotterdam. CIC Rotterdam currently hosts over 250 innovative companies and investors in the Groot Handelsgebouw building next to the Central Station in Rotterdam. The Innovation Hub extends over 11,000 m2 and is designed so that community members can meet at common rooms and events.
A growing proportion of these start-ups are led by women. In 2020 Kornet-Vreugdenhil signed the Diversity Charter of the Social and Economic Council (SER). The aim was to increase the number of female start-up entrepreneurs at CIC Rotterdam from 10 percent to 20 percent.
Recently, this long-awaited goal was achieved. This is an important milestone for the community. “We’re really excited about it,” says Kornet-Vreugdenhil. “In the end, of course, you want the number of entrepreneurs to be roughly the same. Still, this is a pretty big step that we had to work hard for. When we signed the charter over two years ago, our goal was to work towards better representation of the city and society in the world of entrepreneurship. I am very proud that we have reached the first milestone.”
“Taking action to promote diversity on all fronts” – Innovation Origins
Alice Odé is the driving force behind the Dutch Diversity Charter, which has been signed by 230 organizations so far.
focus on diversity
According to Kornet-Vreugdenhil, the key to success lies above all in a broad approach. “We have focused on diversity in recent years. By regularly engaging with the community on this topic, people are now recognizing the need to organize and sponsor events for specific target groups and form strategic partnerships.” In short: “We have seized many opportunities to support women entrepreneurs. In this way, our ambition stays in the foreground.”
Despite the pandemic, the CIC has managed to attract a large number of entrepreneurs from the Rotterdam community in 2021. The balance sheet now stands at 250 companies, and a large number of them are also founded by women. Lox Solution is one such example. Co-founder Anna Rouleau and her company focus on increasing transparency in the logistics industry. They have developed a tool that companies can use to reduce their logistics costs and ensure that they are always charged the right amount.
The entrepreneur Andreea Moga is also a customer of CIC. With Techlabs, she wants to close the digital skills gap by offering free classes to young people. The goal is to encourage people to join forces and work together on technology that solves problems.
“I think it’s great that we attract so many (female) entrepreneurs. From the healthcare sector to logistics, everyone is focused on solving problems in the world,” enthuses Kornet-Vreugdenhil.
The increase in the number of women entrepreneurs goes beyond Rotterdam. Figures from the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK) show that this is a national trend. Kornet-Vreugdenhil believes that the fact that there are more and more female role models also contributes to this. “More and more flag bearers are emerging in the Netherlands. I can really empathize with women being inspired by that.”
The increase in more women starting businesses also fosters a strong sense of connectedness. And that in turn ensures that the challenges they face are recognized. Still, most of the things women end up encountering in their companies are no different than their male counterparts, she stresses. “After all, female entrepreneurs are only female entrepreneurs.”
‘Only the Beginning’
This growth at CIC is planned to continue steadily over the coming years. “That’s just the beginning. It’s great that we’ve achieved our goal, but ultimately it might be even harder to actually sustain that growth.”
A big opportunity, for example, lies in finding a much better balance in raising growth capital. “Women entrepreneurs are still unable to raise enough growth capital.” CIC aims to close this gap in the years to come. “It must and can be done differently. We will work very hard to bring about real change.”