The organization of the most successful Russian businesswomen
Since 2002
rus | eng

The International Forum «Women in today's economy: heading towards entrepreneurship? » was held in Moscow on 19 November 2014, organised by the non-profit partnership “The Committee of 20” in the framework of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

HomeNewsThe International Forum «Women in today's economy: heading towards entrepreneurship? » was held in Moscow on 19 November 2014, organised by the non-profit partnership “The Committee of 20” in the framework of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

The International Forum «Women in today's economy: heading towards entrepreneurship? » was held in Moscow on 19 November 2014, organised by the non-profit partnership “The Committee of 20” in the framework of Global Entrepreneurship Week. The Forum, as always, was focused on the most relevant aspects of female entrepreneurship, and increasing women’s role in the country’s economic development.

The Forum took place in the newly - opened Four Seasons Hotel Moscow in the very heart of Moscow just opposite Red Square and Kremlin Historical Museum. 


More than 130 people participated in the Forum, including female entrepreneurs from 13 Russian regions. A highlight of the day was presentation of a new initiative - Women's Entrepreneurship Day, which from now on will be celebrated annually on 19 November. The «Women in today's economy: heading towards entrepreneurship? » “The Committee of 20”s Forum was the first major event of the initiative. The Forum was organized with the support of ExxonMobil Russia.

Female entrepreneurs play an increasingly important role in the Russian economy. The number of women willing to start their own business has significantly grown in the last two years – which is evidence if not of improving business climate, then at least of the increasing popularity of entrepreneurship in Russia. And this is despite the fact that, according to Elena Fedyashina, Executive Director of the Committee of 20, director of the Forum, the main barriers and problems hindering entrepreneurship remain exactly where they’ve been for several years – regulation, funding, training, and networking between entrepreneurs.

Anna Belova, Deputy Chairperson of the Centre for Entrepreneurship’s Board of Directors, Professor at the Higher School of Economics, and Chairperson of the Committee of 20 noted that it was important not just to provide support to specific entrepreneurs, but to create a favourable ecosystem, and promote efficient development of its three major components: entrepreneurial culture, supporting and promoting people who choose to become entrepreneurs, and making relevant resources available to them. Female entrepreneurs’ potential remains undervalued in today’s Russia, so market players and start-up companies must get their “market bearings” quicker than their competition does, and figure out what to offer the consumers.

Still, female entrepreneurs can and should rely primarily on themselves. Some of them become so successful, that they serve as examples of how to build an efficient business even to the more experienced Western colleagues. Just one such example is the amazing Svetlana Preobrazhenskaya, Director of NIL Farm, one of the Forum speakers. 20 years ago the company started with producing 20 litres of milk a day, and now it produces 200 tons a day. The whole product range (milk, sour cream, cheese, cottage cheese) not only matches the highest quality standards – the products are packed and marketed according to the latest market trends. Having become successful with the traditional product line, NIL carefully monitors all changes on the market. Is there an emerging demand for Russian-made mozzarella? OK, they’ve learnt to make it in Italy and launched production in the Kaluga Region. When a Swiss delegation came to the farm, they were amazed to see a cheese production in Russia which could teach even Western farmers a thing or two.

Another evidence of women’s growing business activity presented at the forum were results of the study conducted in the autumn of 2014 by the Committee of 20, supported by the RF Ministry of Economic Development’s Department of Small and Medium Business and Competition, and sponsored by ExxonMobil Russia.



For female entrepreneurs it’s harder to do business in Russia than in European countries. If men found administrative barriers the biggest hurdle, insufficient business-related knowledge and skills were a more serious problem to female entrepreneurs (40% of women and 32% of men).


Women would very much like to correct this situation, and they count on the government’s and entrepreneurial associations’ help in the matter. Female entrepreneurs believe that Russia needs more programmes, or other initiatives to support women’s businesses (52% women vs 28% men, respectively).


And it was despite the fact that, according to the survey, female entrepreneurs’ education level was higher than men’s. E.g. 16% of the surveyed female entrepreneurs had an MBA or a PhD, as opposed to 9% of men.


So how female entrepreneurs are different from their male colleagues? First of all in terms of courage, and optimism.


Russian women have a more positive and constructive attitude than men do. Their assessment of the overall business climate in Russia was on average much higher than those given by male entrepreneurs. This goes both for national and regional business climate.


A higher proportion of female entrepreneurs intend to keep their business in the short term just as it is now, leaving the turnover more or less unchanged (28% of women and 20% of men).


The full version is available at


According to Elena Fedyashina, Executive Director of the Committee of 20, the results of the study of the business climate in the country and small and medium business support policy’s efficiency, highlight the Committee’s own experience gained in the course of implementing the Mentoring programme. Growing business activity promotes demand for business education – which in turn, stimulates sharing practical experience and absorbing advice of mentors skilled in managing large companies and major projects.

Therefore, on the same day the Committee of 20 held an expert consulting Mentoring session – following requests оf the Forum participants from Russian regions. During the session the Committee of 20’s members, experienced entrepreneurs, and guest experts held master classes and answered entrepreneurs’ questions about information technologies for business development, changes in taxation laws in 2015, and interpersonal communication.

So what should one do if they have ideas, energy, and experience, but lack resources to implement them? Fortunately, today’s Russia has, and efficiently implements, various business support programmes, both federal and regional ones.

Alexei Shestoperov, Deputy Director of the RF Ministry of Economic Development’s Department of Small and Medium Business and Competition, spoke about government support for female entrepreneurs: “Since 2005 the Russian Ministry of Economic Development is implementing a major small and medium business support programme, allocating about 20 billion roubles annually. More than 40 various initiatives are planned to deal with specific problems businesses encounter at various stages of their development. Entrepreneurs all over the country may apply, in the framework of the programme, for subsidies to extend their business, for micro-loans, or for loan security, get consultations at specialised business support centres, or become residents at a business incubator or industrial park. It should be stressed that there are no limitations on female entrepreneurs’ participation in the support programme. The level of their business activity is already quite high. On average, about 35% of micro-loans provided by micro-funding agencies created in the framework of the programme in 2013, were granted to women. During the same period, about 40% of small businesses who received start-up grants were established by women. It should also be noted that the programme’s implementation will continue in the medium term. At the same time the Ministry of Economic Development is willing to listen to any requests and suggestions by female entrepreneurial community, to extend the programme’s priorities”.

However, today’s realities make it rather hard for entrepreneurs to establish and run a business. So what still can be done, despite the objective factors? According to participants of the expert  panel discussion, a true entrepreneur can do quite a lot.

The main advice on surviving during a period of change, provided by  CEOs Svetlana Balanova (IBS), Marina Malykhina (MAGRAM Market Research), Stanislav Kostiashkin (Continent Express), Igor Nikolayev (FBK), Elena Tarasenko (Turner Group), Raisa Demina (Velcom) and Alena Popova (Startup Women) would be useful not just to female entrepreneurs, but to male ones as well.




  • Make an inventory of your business infrastructure and personnel: get rid of ballast, cut down inefficient areas, concentrate resources on increasing your strengths
  • Optimise the company’s organisational structure, consider efficient solutions: commercial promotion, part-time employees, outsourcing
  • Suggest to clients perfect solutions for their problems. E.g. offer them products and services which would enable them to cut costs by 30%
  • Research the market and the customers. According to studies, today the stake – not just in business, but in consumption – should be put on women. They spend less than men do, but on a more regular basis.
  • Even if the crisis hasn’t yet affected your company, prepare a plan B for tomorrow. Entrepreneurs should always be ready for change.
  • Cutting your costs today, don’t forget about what could help the company to survive tomorrow: business development, sales, and marketing. This is the cornerstone of any business, especially during a recession.
  • Operational efficiency, and investing in technology: you cannot be efficient these days if you work manually.
  • Find niches in the current situation. The experts named a few industries, but there must be many more of them:
  • In production: dairy products, packaging. I.e. what until recently made the lion’s share of imports. Today, given the relevancy of import substitution, these niches have a huge potential.
  • In the service sector: e-commerce, goods and services for children, online education, and other advanced services.
  • Move on, move on, and again move on. You can relax in fat years, but today that’s a luxury entrepreneurs cannot afford.


If problems don’t ‘kill’ the entrepreneur, they make him stronger. What worries Russian business more than anything else is ambiguity about the future. It’s very important to a true entrepreneur to have a long-term view of their business. So they need to understand the rules of the game, and know these rules are not going to change – especially post factum.

Therefore the main conclusion – and the main wish – of the Forum participants was that the most important thing for entrepreneurs wasn’t so much market situation as government policy towards business. When business feels government support, and is not burdened with ever-growing tax pressure and statutory limitations, and can see long-term prospects, entrepreneurs would work even in a recession and bear the increased risks. And when business is developing, economic growth wouldn’t be far behind – whatever the market situation happens to be.

View photographs

View photographs Faces of the Forum 2014

View photographs Mentoring session 2014

The Committee of 20’s study

Leave your comment about the Forum