Womed award for CEO in sector where women are ‘noticeably underrepresented’

Summary

The female entrepreneur of the year award has been won by Mieke Frijters of ground surfacing firm ATF in Antwerp

Lack of support from partners a problem, says winner

Mieke Frijters of ATF in Antwerp has won the annual Womed Award for the year’s most outstanding female entrepreneur. Based in Antwerp, ATF specialises in road and other ground surfacing.

Frijters has been at the head of ATF for four years. The family-owned company was founded by Frijters’ father in 1960 and provides all kinds of services related to surfacing. This includes surfacing with any number of materials, such as asphalt, cobblestones or concrete, but also preparing construction sites, decontamination of soil and sand and soil removal.

“Women are very noticeably underrepresented in this sector,” said Frijters (pictured), upon winning the award. “Although it is changing little by little. I meet many more female engineers now than I used to.”

Frijters and her brother started working for the firm in 1982 and ran it together following his death. Six years ago, she bought her brother out and became the sole CEO. The company continues to experience steady, sustainable growth and innovates with new services, such as processing construction waste into reusable granules.

Happy staff, happy clients

Most of ATF’s clients are industrial firms, and the company also has contracts with regional and municipal governments. “There is a great emphasis placed on making sure that women become entrepreneurs,” said Frijters. “I don’t really agree; I find who the person is more important than if it is a man or a woman. But I do find that it is much more difficult for women to be successful entrepreneurs because of the lack of support of their partners.”

The Womed jury was especially impressed by Frijters’ drive and vision, as well as her people-friendly management style. “Our approach is to make sure that we have satisfied employees because that is the surest way to ensure satisfied customers,” said Frijters.

Womed, given out by self-employed support agency Unizo and female entrepreneur network Markant, also awards the most promising entrepreneur, which this year is Isabelle Ulenaers of Geel, who both developed and distributes her Self line of personal care products.

Every two years, a Women South award is presented, in co-operation with the Brussels-based NGO Trias, which assists self-starters in the Central and South Americas and southern Africa. This year’s winner is Blanca De Carmen Perdomo, who runs the Las Bromas fresh produce collective in El Salvador. The collective works with 24 farms owned and operated by women.