Whether or not a man offers me his seat on the tram is irrelevant – he should be offering me a place on his Supervisory Board.
Käte Ahlmann (1890–1963)
Welcome to VdU – Passion for Business
Success needs a network
Formed in 1954, the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs offers a platform for women in business. It is the personal contact between businesswomen from a wide range of industries that makes the Association an effective, vibrant network that draws its strength from the opportunities it offers women of all ages to discuss and share their experiences and competencies with those facing similar challenges.
On a political level, the VdU also strengthens women’s role in the economy by representing the interests of around 1,800 businesswomen who account for annual sales of EUR 85 billion and 500,000 employees. Accordingly, a major focus is the representation of women entrepreneurs combined with political advocacy for women’s interests.
Over the last 65 years, the VdU has grown into a strong network with a regional presence and international connections. We have achieved a great deal and there are many chapters left to write in our success story.
Active and informative
Businesswomen volunteer their valuable time to organise the network at a local level in 16 regional associations. Every year, over 300 events are held, focusing on topics from business, politics, society and culture. Collaboration with regional chambers of commerce and various partners means the VdU is an omnipresent organisation that effectively represents women’s interests throughout Germany.
Supplementing the many events held regionally, the VdU also offers businesswomen a nationwide programme that includes “Tea Time” meetings with members of the German parliament, multi-day annual conferences, delegation visits and further training.
In cooperation with the Käte Ahlmann Foundation, which is named after the founding president of the VdU, VdU women entrepreneurs are particularly dedicated to supporting young entrepreneurs. In the foundation’s TWIN (TwoWomenWin) project, experienced businesswomen provide support to young female entrepreneurs in building and expanding their already established companies.
A strong voice in politics and business
One particular focus of the VdU’s work is the economic situation faced by small- and mid-sized enterprises. The VdU’s Economic Commission brings the expertise and engagement of its women entrepreneurs to bear on economic policy issues such as reducing red tape, labour market policies and education.
The VdU also wants to encourage more women to consider self-employment, increase the numbers of women in management positions, and improve options for juggling family and working life for both women and men.
Another aim is to increase the presence of women on Supervisory Boards. As a co-initiator of the “Berlin Declaration”, the VdU played a major role in campaigning for the legislation of board quotas for women. In addition, the VdU set up a database which comprises over 700 suitable female candidates for Board positions. Advice is provided personally and in strictest confidence.
STEM – leaders and networks
Innovation thrives best in places where ideas, independence and initiative are given a fertile medium in which to grow. At the heart of the SME sector are the technical and scientific professions, the engines of innovation in which women continue to be under-represented. Our STEM Committee (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is now helping businesswomen to engage with this important field for the future.
The VdU’s “STEM Summit”, whose partners include major players such as Porsche, KUKA, Innogy and Deutsche Telekom, is open not only to entrepreneurs but also to women working in STEM-related management. In talks and workshops, STEM issues are discussed, role models acknowledged and experiences shared among delegates.
Cooperating on an international scale
Connecting women entrepreneurs across the globe is part of the Association’s philosophy. Since it was founded in 1954, VdU has been a member of the global umbrella association FCEM (Les Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises Mondiales), which gives VdU contact to businesswomen across all industries working in over 120 countries.
As an exclusive partner, the VdU certifies women-owned companies for WEConnect International in Germany and thus offers women entrepreneurs unique opportunities for growth on local and global markets. WEConnect is a global network that brings together almost 100 corporations that are looking to expand their supplier diversity and integration programs.
VdU also partners with many more organisations, attends international conferences and hosts delegation trips with a focus on B2B exchange. All VdU members have the opportunity to use this lively network for their activities and to contribute to strengthening women entrepreneurs in the economy and society worldwide.
Advocacy in the global network
Since 2015, the VdU has been representing Germany in the Women20 Engagement Group at the G20 summit. This transnational network of women’s organisations, female entrepreneurs’ associations and think tanks promotes women’s economic empowerment as an integral part of the G20 process. In broad dialogue around the world, W20 jointly draws up concrete recommendations to advance gender equality in G20 negotiations.
Together with the Deutscher Frauenrat (National Council of German Women’s Organizations), female entrepreneurs made a significant contribution to the economic empowerment of women under the German G20 presidency in 2017, and the VdU will further support this topic as it continues to be in the focus of G20 under future presidencies.
The international network comes alive when women entrepreneurs travel together. On a regular basis, the VdU invites its members to join delegation trips that combine both business interests and intercultural exchange. In recent years, the Association has visited numerous countries and regions including India, China, Brazil, Norway, Dubai, Poland, Silicon Valley and Canada, thus gaining insights in female-run ecosystems around the world, best practices and market trends.
The CETA Convention is one example of a gender-sensitive trade agreement that sets new standards of empowering women in international trade. With Canada’s governmental support, a first all-female Canadian trade mission visited Germany in 2018, followed by a return visit of German women entrepreneurs in 2019. The exchange is being continued in meetings at German-Canadian conferences and web-based B2B export sparring partnerships.
The VdU International Commission cultivates intense friendships to European countries, especially in the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Turkey, Hungary and Ukraine.
The International Commission is also actively involved in international projects, such as cooperative ventures with businesswomen’s organisations in the MENA region. This strong network is an effective way for the organisations to learn from each other and to take advantage of local expertise.
Topics such as “Women in STEM” and “women on boards and top management” are important issues that have been avidly received in almost all partner associations in Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia. Exchanging experiences in setting up professional, permanent offices and association structures have benefitted all parties involved. Among many other initiatives and projects, the Lebanese association, for example, launched the first Lebanese ‘Girls Day’ in April 2017. The idea was taken from the German ‘Girls Day’ and started as a pilot project.