Just two months to go until the beginning of Expo 2015, a unique occasion to relaunch the nation’s entrepreneurship, especially in tourism and the food industry. And it is in these very sectors that Italy has noted the most female-led businesses.

The Banca d’Italia has calculated that, if the percentage of female workers was to reach the goals set by Lisbon – so 60% – the GDP of our country go up one point. How can we reconcile this expectation with the current economic crisis and employment problems? What are the most recent data on female entrepreneurship in this first trimester of 2015? Below, are the results of five pieces of market research that have been distributed recently and which reflect the state of the art. Each one gives us a characteristic that defines female leadership, five useful pieces of information for growingleaders and the growingleaders who – every day – deal with the challenges of the world of work and professional growth.

Here are the most recent figures from five market surveys which capture a clear image of the current situation. Each survey reveals a characteristic that defines female leadership, providing ample food-for-thought to all growingleaders who face the challenges posed by professional growth and the labor market every day.

    Recent statistics show that it is women who are showing the most significant rates of growth. A young woman, under 35, who accepts the challenges of entrepreneurship is the profile that emerges from data from the Female entrepreneurship monitoring unit of Unioncamere. It is young women, the ones in the most important working age group, who counter job precarity (and very often the loss of precarious work) by starting their own businesses and by choosing self-employment, like true growing leaders.Between March and September 2014, female entrepreneurship has shown a growth of 0.8%. Unioncamere adds that 29% of the 1,302,054 female enterprises active in Italy are part of the agri-food and tourism sectors, with 143,256 women-led businesses in tourism and 234,684 in agri-food.

    The female-factor is also becoming increasingly predominant in large companies, NAFE, the National Association for Female Executives, a Division of Working Mother Media, one of the largest associations of female professionals and business owners in the US, has recently made official the 2015 list of the 50 companies that are the best working places for women. It wouldn’t hurt to have a similar list for Italy. It is still very hard to find female leaders occupying the so-called C-suite (the positions of CEO, CFO and COO), but the businesses selected stand out because of a corporate culture that values the woman in the executive role, and where women’s careers progress faster than average thanks to the sponsorship of mentoring programs and recruitment initiatives.

    According to the Confcommercio data published in January, female-led businesses have stood up better to the economic crisis. Over the last five years, just 47,000 women-led companies have closed compared to the 158,000 run by men. According to research promoted by Saba, a US software company carried out by Harris Poll, 60% of male employees expect their employer to play an active role in their career, compared to 49% of their female colleagues, who are more used to depending on themselves as leaders of their own destiny. Data from the latest survey carried out by ManagerItalia show that some sectors highlight more the female presence in managerial roles: health, social assistance and education. Privately speaking, for example, women represent more than 40% of the total number of managers in three sectors. The other activities are more clearly highlighted: in leased real estate, computers, research and services to business they number 18.5%, while in financial activities they number 13.3%. A similar trend, albeit with even higher percentages, can be found among executive positions, where women are even stronger than men (50.8%) in the sectors of health and social services. In any case, as well as the classic sectors, women are also making huge steps forward in the technological and engineering worlds.

    The previously mentioned survey sponsored by Saba also shows the emergence of a different vision of leadership in the male and female mentalities. Women have “natural tendencies to be good listeners, provide constant feedback…share knowledge with others and build collaborative relationships”. All factors that encourage team spirit and create a leader who motivates and nurtures the fast growth of the so-called Millennials, the young human resources. Diversity is necessary to compete in a multifaceted world, and the feminine approach to the executive role can provide a little extra push in the right direction.

    Furthermore, according to the Harris Poll, female leaders are not motivated solely by economic ambition but, rather, women view work more holistically, as a component of their overall life plan. But we must be careful not to underestimate this difference. The predisposition to be a team player or to be willing to take on the so-called ‘office housework‘ doesn’t mean women are not naturally born ambitious leaders.On the contrary: when women bring this attitude with them to the workplace in managerial roles, they can really make a difference and demonstrate their ability to be stronger and more effective leaders. A sensitivity best described by a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

    If you want to build a boat, don’t gather men to cut wood, share the tasks and give orders; but teach them to long for the vast and infinite sea.