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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Barcelona woos female bosses
Boardroom
One in four employers in Barcelona is now a woman

In a re-write of the classic film Casablanca, Ingrid Bergman tells a stunned Humphrey Bogart she wants to launch her own business.

The farewell scene, re-worked by a Barcelona-based women's entrepreneur project, shows the heroine - instead of fleeing the Nazis - preparing to fly to the Catalan capital to join a business start-up course.

Wind on 55 years, and the project run by Barcelona Activa is one of a number of city-funded programmes which have dramatically boosted women's participation in the city's workforce.

One in four employers in Barcelona is now a woman.

Progress

"When I started my programme it was the first for women in Spain," says Josefa Sanchez of Barcelona Activa.

"I started with 15 women, and now I have 275 women in the programme every year."


"What we are trying to do at this summit is to share best practices that help women improve the entrepreneurial clout."

Irene Natividad, summit director

Gloria Llatser, one of the project's former students, now runs an on-line translation service employing 27 full time staff.

"Spain is a country that has developed a lot, most mothers of my mother's generation have never worked, never" she says.

"So it's an opportunity for countries that are in the same situation as Spain was 20 years ago to see how fast things can change."

"A women's Davos"

The director of the Global summit of Women , Irene Natividad, says Barcelona was an obvious venue for such an event.

"Barcelona is ahead, not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of its programmes to help women progress as business owners," she says.

"What we are trying to do at this summit is to share best practices that help women improve the entrepreneurial clout."

Chaired by five women vice-presidents and prime ministers, the summit has been billed as a women's Davos.

But unlike its Swiss counterpart, the focus will be less on deal-making, and much more on practical lessons for women in a male-dominated business world.

Male dominated

Barcelona, famed for its style and culture, is also renowned for its hard-nosed commercialism.

Deputy Irish Prime Minister Mary Harney
Deputy Irish Prime Minister Mary Harney will attend the summit

Today, there's no doubt women are playing an increasing role in the city's economic success.

But in the city's corridors of power, you'd hardly know it.

In the Baroque splendour of Barcelona's chamber of commerce hang the portraits of the city's former business leaders, every one a man.

Aspirations

Even today, of the chamber's 69 board members, just three are women.

Real estate manager, Adela Subirana, is one of the few.

"When I came into this chamber for the first time, I felt that the power lay here, and with this power we can change many things for all the different women in our country," she said.

Those aspirations will certainly be in evidence at the women's business summit.

But it may be a long time yet before enough progress has been made to make such women-only gatherings a thing of the past.

See also:

11 Jul 02 | Business
19 Jun 02 | Business
18 Jun 02 | Business
30 May 02 | Business
02 May 02 | Business
04 Mar 02 | Business
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