The FINANCIAL -- The Women Business Council in Georgia (WBCG) is taking actions to promote recognition of women in Georgia, to bring together women of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, networking support, and national recognition.
The WBCG is a membership-based non-profit organisation founded in May, 2015. WBCG works with women from diverse communities locally and regionally and delivers a broad range of services that inspires participants to become economically active and personally fulfilled.
This year the WBCG was the special partner of the most influential and prestigious annual business awards ceremony in Georgia - Golden Brand.
Golden Brand has been awarding locally-operating companies for their various achievements since 2006.
“We support not only the awards ceremony Golden Brand but also its goal and initiative that aim to encourage the private sector year after year,” said Natia Meparishvili, Chairwoman of WBCG.
Q. What are the future plans and recent developments of the WBCG?
A. Future plans of our organisation are related to empowering women’s role in entrepreneurship. Today the world recognises that a ‘Strong Woman is a Strong Economy’. Every day we work hard to attract the finances for conferences, trainings, exhibitions and various events that support raising women’s role in business and society.
Last year we organised the largest conference of women entrepreneurs in Georgia which was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Tbilisi City Hall and Bank of Georgia. More than 350 women attended the conference, which revealed the leader women of the year in the Government, non-governmental sector and in business.
The months of May-June are completely dedicated to a series of free trainings for our members in order to improve their entrepreneurial skills.
Meanwhile, the state also supports empowering women’s role through different events.
Q. What are the state programmes that support women entrepreneurs in Georgia?
A. I would single out the state programme ‘Produce in Georgia’ which provides small grants for women.
Also, the ‘Start-up Georgia’ programme that supports young entrepreneurs who are just beginning their business activities.
And a very important initiative belongs to the Academy of the Ministry of Finance, which offers free trainings for women.
Q. What is women’s role in Georgia’s economic growth and reform-creating process?
A. Despite the fact that there are fewer women in the leading positions in business or government, their role is still very important.
We can see that women have become more active in very specific fields of business such as tourism, service areas (beauty salons), and handmade items.
In most cases women are self-employed in Georgia.
Q. In terms of access to finance - what opportunities do women in Georgia have in this direction?
A. Women and men in Georgia have equal access to bank loans, but the challenge is mortgaging. Real estate belongs to men in most cases in our country and this creates a barrier for women who want to have access to a loan. We believe that this stereotype will be relegated to the past very soon.
A positive development is that today women’s business is not perceived as a risky one in Georgia. On the contrary - for most partners women are trustworthy allies. None of the largest organisations have promoted female employees and made them the main workforce of the company though.
Q. There is a big difference in the salaries that men and women get in Georgia. Where do you see a solution to this problem?
A. The problem of gender inequality in the job market has a long history and I cannot say that only developing countries face this problem.
Figures from the National Statistics Office of Georgia show that men earn about GEL 351 more than women each month in business and in the public sectors of Georgia.
In 2014 male employees in Georgia earned an average salary of GEL 940.
One of the solutions to this situation is to arrange more meetings in order to raise awareness and also to create different programmes through dialogue between public and non-governmental sectors.
Q. In general, how would you characterise the business environment in Georgia. What progress is noticeable in this direction?
A. The Georgian market is specific. There are developments in the tourism direction.
The market has become attractive since Georgia became a signatory of the Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union, and part of it is the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) deal.
The amendments aligned the country’s tax system with the Corporate Income Tax (CIT) - the Estonian Taxation Model, which is also very important. Under the Estonian Taxation Model all businesses, except profit-sharing businesses, should be exempt from income tax.
The Europe 2020 strategy is also very important. This is the EU’s agenda for growth and jobs for the current decade. It emphasises smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as a way to overcome the structural weaknesses in Europe’s economy, improve its competitiveness and productivity and underpin a sustainable social market economy.