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11 February 2014

Spanish Women Take the Helm 

As Spain struggles to clear the wreckage from its debt crisis, one hopeful trend is emerging: More women are starting their own businesses.

Unemployment in Spain remains painfully high. Although it did appear to level off around 26 percent in the third and fourth quarters of 2013, many economists fear the employment situation will improve slowly at best this year.

The director of the Open University of Catalonia's business school, however, has found a glimmer of hope. The proportion of women-owned businesses in Spain has reportedly climbed to just under 40 percent, from less than 20 percent in the years before the crisis.

Advances in technology, from social media to smartphone apps, have made it easier for all companies to communicate with like-minded people around the world, and Spanish women have been beneficiaries.

Nevertheless, women say they still face resistance from friends and family who haven’t yet gotten used to the idea of women owning businesses, and they face the usual regulatory and bureaucratic challenges of doing business in Spain.

Last year the country’s parliament passed legislation cutting red tape and offering tax breaks to start-up businesses, a long-overdue shift in a nation the World Bank ranks as 142nd out of 189 countries for ease of starting a new business. Women entrepreneurs can’t necessarily change that, but their readiness to come forward is a hopeful sign for an economy in need of good news.