For the fourth year of the EDF Pulse Awards, we are teaming up with a new partner: the Paris Pionnières incubator. Founded in 2005, this organisation is dedicated to supporting projects created by women.
Since men continue to dominate the landscape of innovation, the incubator's goal is to give these women the help they need to grow their start-ups and overcome self-doubt and biases. Interview with Caroline Ramade, Managing Director of Paris Pionnières.
Why and how did Paris Pionnières get started?
Paris Pionnières began 12 years ago because fewer than 5% of all start-ups in France were headed by women. Today, that number has climbed to 8%, which is still far too low. Meanwhile, in Paris, where Paris Pionnières has provided support to more than 200 start-ups co-founded by women, the number has increased to 21%, making Paris the European capital of female-led start-ups. We still have a long way to go, however.
What kind of support do you provide to these female entrepreneurs?
We believe that for there to be growth, we need a large crop of women-run businesses: our female entrepreneurs are offering up new approaches and never-before-explored ways of seeing the world.
We have three programmes designed for start-ups: the three-day Possible Camp, to awaken the entrepreneur within; the six-month WoDi (Women Disrupt) to go from the idea to the proof of concept and then launch the business; and finally, the incubator, to help start-ups conquer a market, raise funds and find the model that will help them take their business to the next level. We start supporting our start-ups very early in the project creation phase to help businesses co-founded by women get off the ground: this has made us the most gender-balanced incubator in Paris (50% men). Finally, we also have our 66miles corporate programme, created in partnership with Five by Five and designed for female intrapreneurs at established companies.
What do you do to help these women establish themselves in the start-up world?
It is important to help female entrepreneurs establish themselves, of course, but Paris Pionnières does more than just provide publicity: our goal is to make a highly tangible impact. That is why we go into large corporations and offer women training in digital fields, why we visit investment firms and raise awareness with investors about these issues, and why we participate in competitions to ensure increased visibility for women. Inclusion must contribute to all these areas.
What does this partnership with the EDF Pulse Awards mean for you?
We were impressed by the original idea: EDF said, 'we can't accept having so few female winners' and they set about to change things. And now we are seeing an impact; this year, 60% of the applications we received in the first few weeks had both men and women on the teams. The prestigious EDF Pulse competition offers a real financial incentive for the candidates. As such, it also provides us with an opportunity to spread a positive message within our communities and encourage them to give it a shot. In addition, the projects we support align perfectly with the 'smart city' and 'smart home' categories.
What do you hope to see for tomorrow's female entrepreneurs?
I hope that Paris will become the global capital for women-run start-ups. We must do more than just give inspirational speeches and tweet about how women are under-represented: we must take concrete action to effect real change. Becoming a female entrepreneur is the ultimate exercise in liberation. For the women who launch their own businesses, the biggest struggle is the overwhelming amount of freedom they now have. Our task is to help them come to terms with this 'empowerment'. They are radically changing society because they represent a different breed of women, because they are more financially independent, and because they have a real impact on the dynamics within their teams thanks to the new leadership methods they are embracing. I believe they are the true inclusive leaders of the future!