The Russian Federation has a long tradition of women’s active participation in its economy. As of 2012, women made up around half of the workers in Russia’s nonagricultural economy and represented more than 60 percent of high-skilled professionals. More...
The Russian Federation has a long tradition of women’s active participation in its economy. As of 2012, women made up around half of the workers in Russia’s nonagricultural economy and represented more than 60 percent of high-skilled professionals. Nearly 40 percent of all managers and 30 percent of employers are women, according to the International Labor Organization. Moreover, around 20 percent of private firms employ women as “top” managers and nearly 28.5 percent of firms have women among their owners, according a 2012 World Bank survey of more than 4200 enterprises. In 2014, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, which compares conditions faced by men and women in 142 economies, ranked Russia 42nd with respect to economic participation and opportunity and 75th overall).
SMEs represent just 23 percent of Russia’s GDP, according to a 2015 OECD report. Although this figure is low compared with the most recent statistics found in China (60 percent) and the United States (46 percent), it is not far from average of the 28 economies of the European Union (28 percent). Cognizant of the significant room for growth and expansion of SMEs, the Russian government has committed to strengthening its investment climate. A new SME law in 2007, along with the establishment of an SME bank in 2009, aimed to reduce bureaucratic burdens and improve access to finance. Since 2010, the economy’s performance in the World Bank’s Doing Business survey has improved for nearly all indicators.
In addition, the recent proliferation of venture capital firms and other lending and investment opportunities is a promising backdrop for future growth of SMEs. The vastness of the Russian market has reportedly given rise to quick adaptations of technology. The economy’s internet marketing audience—53 million people—is Europe’s largest. Indeed, young entrepreneurs in the Russian Federation are known for their drive and ambition—in 2013, Forbes magazine characterized them as moving “at the speed of light.”
The majority of Russian people (74 percent) live in urban areas, where they tend to have greater access to jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities, and markets than those who live in rural areas. According to a 2014 survey of 431 SMEs across 52 regions, sponsored by an organization of highly successful Russian businesswomen, men and women identify “the need for self-realization, and implementation of my business idea” and “the need for financial independence” as their first two motivating factors for forming a business. The same study indicates that, while men and women encounter similar challenges as entrepreneurs, women cite “insufficient knowledge and lack of experience” somewhat more frequently than men as a limiting factor, while men more often cite administrative challenges—in particular, bureaucracy and corruption—as a key challenge. Both men and women identify access to finance as their primary challenge at start-up.
Russian women who succeed not only in launching a new enterprise, but also in employing workers and building significant wealth, are widely considered to be highly driven and exceptionally hard-working.
They are noted for their independence and willingness to operate in a male-dominated environment. As characterized by one female entrepreneur who, as of 2014, employed 20,000 people, “[W]e can certainly say that being a business woman in Russia was not and never will be easy.”
Indeed, according to the IFC, Russian women entrepreneurs report feeling held back by cultural factors, including the attitudes of male suppliers and customers; social norms, including challenges to their assuming nontraditional family roles; and their own skills and mindsets, which may include risk-aversion and poor self-confidence. They also report less access to networks, resources and finance, compared with their male peers. Statistics maintained by the Russian government show significant segregation of jobs in Russia, with men far outnumbering women in engineering, construction, transport, communications, and mining, and women dominating services, sales, and healthcare.
As detailed in this section, many factors contribute to the establishment and effectiveness of business networks, private-sector initiatives, and government services that support women-owned enterprises and expanded opportunities for women in business in Russia. As women form and grow their businesses, they face many differences among themselves with respect to attitudes, opportunities, resources, and markets.
In recent years, women in business have become increasingly involved in traditional business associations, new business associations, and NGOs of all types. Groups include those oriented toward protecting the health and safety of women, and those formed to support women as entrepreneurs and employees. Today, women-owned enterprises in Russia participate in traditional networks—formal business associations open to men and women—and in networks formed and led by women in business for other women in business. Women’s business networks, particularly those that function without direct government support, have room to grow, and ample opportunity exists for traditional business networks to include more women in leadership positions. Both traditional and female-oriented networks are discussed in this section.
Networks that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Networks that support women’s access to markets:
Networks that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Networks that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Networks that support women and innovation and technology:
A number of banks and microfinance institutions offer programs that recognize the special needs of women entrepreneurs and serve women who are striving to build their small enterprises into larger companies. Most other private initiatives geared toward women and the economy come from universities or NGOs. Today, the issue of women’s economic empowerment—including the economic growth potential found in enhanced economic participation of women—does not appear to be extensively developed by mainstream economic research institutes. Moreover, one area that appears under-exploited is that of private companies seeking to diversify their supply chains by using women- owned enterprises. Although enterprises of all sizes are known to participate in internships or partnerships with government or universities that seek their support, there is ample room for companies to undertake their own initiatives that signal their commitment to women’s economic empowerment and their understanding of women’s influence as consumers.
Initiatives that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Initiatives that support women’s access to markets:
Initiatives that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Initiatives that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Initiatives that support women and innovation and technology:
The Russian government commits significant resources to supporting SMEs. All SMEs (both men- and women-owned) are eligible to apply for support, which includes a range of services, including access to training and opportunities for credit. In the Russian Federation, SMEs are defined as “economic entities (legal entities and individual entrepreneurs),” which generally employ 250 employees or fewer. Small enterprises in Russia are defined as those employing 16 to 100 employees. Micro-enterprises have at most 15 employees.
In addition, the government aims to create opportunities for women in the labor force and support them as necessary. In general, the labor law protects the rights of persons with family duties (both women and men). Although leave benefits for new parents are somewhat higher for women than for men, both parents have the opportunity to take advantage of paid parental leave. Employers are prohibited from dismissing a pregnant woman or a man who is expecting a child and is the only breadwinner in the family. There are also additional measures of state support of families with children after a birth (or adoption) of the second child. They are realized in the form of the maternity (family) capital that makes about 500,000 rubles (over US$10,000). These funds can be allocated for improvement of living conditions, education of the child (children), and formation of a funded part of the mother’s pension.
To improve opportunities for women’s economic participation, the Government sponsors programs aimed at creating new workplaces (including remote, home-based, and with flexible schedules). The Government has also increased salaries in the public sector, particularly in jobs that employ a high proportion of women (healthcare, education, social services).
Promoting vocational education and additional professional education of women during maternity leave (until a child is three years old) maintains women’s competitiveness in the labor market. Vocational education is also accessible for women entrepreneurs, students, and housewives who are not considered to be unemployed but still need training to get additional skills or professional experience.
With the aim of promoting women’s entrepreneurship, local authorities also implement measures to create additional incentives and preferences for businesswomen with family duties. In particular, young mothers may participate in business activities in preschool education to develop, for example, private kindergartens, family groups, and social and game rooms. In a number of regions, women who express interest in starting a business can get help developing a business plan and seeking additional training and professional development.