Women’s* Empowerment Convention in Münster, Germany

By Maynara Furquim, FH Münster University of Applied Sciences  

The first Women’s* Empowerment Convention took place on November 22nd, 2023, at the Atlantic Hotel Münster, Germany. The event was organised in the higher education network of the University of Münster and the FH Münster University of Applied Sciences in the REACH – EUREGIO Start-up Centre and was realised in cooperation with regional and supra-regional organisations.

The Women’s* Empowerment Convention strives to strengthen the representation and visibility of women in entrepreneurship, the start-up scene, leadership and innovation and showcase their achievements and their potential for the innovation culture.

With more than 250 participants, 30+ experts and 8 workshops, the convention was divided into two parts: a day programme with a keynote speaker, various workshops running in parallel, and a showcase of initiatives for women’s* empowerment; and a night programme, with a poetry slam and a panel discussion. Throughout the day, participants had multiple networking opportunities.

The convention brought together students, scientists, entrepreneurs, companies, institutions, employees, and alumni to discuss topics related to equality, leadership, careers, and start-ups. It was inclusive in every way, welcoming men and women from different backgrounds, with special attention given to the international guests, who were offered four workshops in English and live subtitles (in multiple languages) during the keynote speech and panel discussion.

The day started with an inspiring keynote speech by Tijen Onaran. Tijen is an entrepreneur, investor, best-selling author and one of Germany’s most important opinion makers when it comes to diversity, visibility, and digitalisation, as well as one of the most prominent voices in German business. Her motto is “Diversity is not a trend. Diversity is the cornerstone of a company’s success!” It was the perfect start to a day full of valuable insights.

Dr. Sue Rossano-Rivero to the left and Tijen Onaran to the right. Photo: ©️Gesa Niessen

After that, the participants took part in exciting workshops with the experts, about varied crucial topics, such as “Inclusive Finance”, which our WeRin Project Leader, Dr. Sue Rossano-Rivero, and WeRin Project Coordinator, Maynara Furquim, conducted. The session showcased the WeRin results and piloted some of the resources produced (WeRin Toolbox), especially under the Principle of Visibility of Support & Finance.

Rossano-Rivero made the participants delve into an analysis of gender-related challenges encountered by women entrepreneurs in accessing venture capital financing, aiming to glean insights into how financing can be more inclusive for women. The session also explored how banks contribute to a more inclusive landscape for funding in entrepreneurship. The discussions encompassed the underrepresentation of women investors and its impact on the presence of women entrepreneurs in the start-up arena.

Dr. Sue Rossano-Rivero during the Inclusive Financing Workshop. Photo: ©️Gesa Niessen

The participants were:

  • Enthusiastic students at various levels of higher education (both graduate and undergraduate) with a keen interest in entrepreneurship.
  • Faculty members and alumni from diverse universities within the region.
  • (Women) Entrepreneurs aiming to deepen their understanding of the financial landscape for entrepreneurship and eager to explore funding options offered by banks.
WeRin Inclusive Finance Workshop at the Women’s* Empowerment Convention. Photo: ©️Gesa Niessen

Collaboratively, the participants investigated and assessed the strategies employed by successful women entrepreneurs to overcome gender-specific barriers. Group discussions were carried out throughout the whole workshop to integrate all perspectives using real-life examples. For that two women entrepreneurs were invited to share their experience with financing: Christina Wulf, managing director and co-founder of Closd, who got funded by a bank; and Lara Wagemann, co-founder and managing director of AllCup, who was funded through venture capital.

Christina Wulf to the left and Lara Wagemann to the right. Photo: ©️Gesa Niessen

Actionable steps that both women entrepreneurs and the broader entrepreneurial ecosystems can take to address this critical issue in the realm of inclusive finance were explored. The workshop concluded with Simone Plum, funding consultant from the NRW.BANK, examining the various options banks provide for women entrepreneurs committed to making a meaningful impact.

Simone Plum, from the NRW Bank, during the Inclusive Financing Workshop. Photo: ©️Gesa Niessen

The day ended with an energizing poetry slam by Lila Sovia, a multifaceted rap, hip hop and spoken word artist from Hamburg. Following this a diverse panel discussion occurred with extraordinary speakers on the topic of “New Work, EqualPay, Work-Life-Blending: Are new working conditions changing the opportunities for women*?”. It was the perfect closure for an inspiring day, reinforcing that everyone, everywhere can play a part in achieving transformative change for gender equity at all levels of society. Gender equity is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.

The next Women’s* Empowerment Convention is already confirmed for early 2024, and also in 2025. What a crucial achievement for the Münster ecosystem to keep discussing and engaging to make the ecosystem more inclusive!