Comment from Deb Leary, OBE, National President
In December 2009 I had the pleasure of meeting Madame Tinou Dutry, the founder of the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs. It was through this meeting that I recognised the enormous privilege it was to take on the role of President and the responsibility I was assuming bearing in mind that the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs had been in existence since the early 1950s.
It is sad to report that Madame Dutry passed away earlier this year and as a result never got to see the changes that have taken place and the plans for the future. However in continuing to move the Association forward I see this as a celebration of her commitment and dedication to supporting women entrepreneurs not only in the UK, but internationally.
At the beginning of the 21st century it should come as no surprise that the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAWE) exists. What is extra-ordinary is that it has existed for over 50 years, adapting to the differing and growing needs of Britain’s business women to become the influential and highly respected organisation it is to-day.
The roots of the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs lie in the resourcefulness of women left with businesses to run following the Second World War. Madame Yvonne Edmond Foinant, owner of a steel factory, started an association in France in 1946 under the name of ‘Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises’. Similar groups of active women business owners organised themselves in Belgium and Holland in 1949, and their presidents signed the statutes of the European Association of Women Entrepreneurs in Brussels, on January 15th, 1950.
At the beginning of 1953, Madame Foinant entrusted Tinou Dutry, a young Belgian member who had a London based business with the task of forming the association in the United Kingdom. British business owners were invited to her Hyde Park Gate’s offices to be informed of the new organisation as a result of which Meiko Orr Ewing and Stella Fisher joined her in Paris for the Congress of European FCE held in September 1953. The three ‘British’ delegates were received with FCEM privileged members at the Elysee Palace by M Vincent Auriol, then President of the French Republic, a very prestigious debut!
To-day the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs is an Affiliate of Les Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises Mondials (FCEM), one of sixty affiliated countries from five continents. The British Association of Women Entrepreneurs works closely with the commercial section of all the embassies, particularly the world’s largest trading country, the United States of America and represents The World Association FCEM at the United Nations in New York.
The British Association of Women Entrepreneurs is linked through its members to all Chambers of Commerce. Members speak and represent British Women Entrepreneurs at conferences all over the world and participate in training programmes in the third world. The Association is now 50 years young and has established itself as a recognised source of information on entrepreneurship and British women business owners.