#Newsroom: International Conference Focuses on Women’s Economic Empowerment

Opportunities and Challenges for Equity, Inclusive Growth, and Sustainability

Women’s Economic Empowerment: Opportunities and Challenges for Equity, Inclusive Growth, and Sustainability Conference. PIC © Malcolm Cochrane Photography

Washington, DC December 2019. Women’s Economic Empowerment: Opportunities and Challenges for Equity, Inclusive Growth, and Sustainability were topics discussed during the first international women’s economic empowerment conference held in November in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Hosted at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Gogarburn Business School, the conference was presented by Women’s Economic Imperative (WEI), the global collaborative initiative, in partnership with Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), the community interest company which focuses on the contribution women’s enterprise makes to the Scottish economy.

The conference gathered international speakers, thought leaders and change makers representing civil society, academia as well as private and public sectors from across the globe. It focussed on sharing knowledge, engaging participants in active dialog, and catalysing concrete actions to help advance women’s economic empowerment. Driving the agenda were the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the work of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, and the outcomes of the T-20 Task Force on Gender Economic Equity.

Participants heard from women who have broken cultural and industry barriers as they progressed careers in sectors such as technology, medicine, aviation, and finance. Speakers included technology evangelist Professor Sue Black; Kenyan Airways Captain and first female African Dreamliner pilot, Captain Irene Koki Mutungi, and the Hon. Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera, Former President of Costa Rica and Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. Prominent Scottish and global industry leaders such as Malcolm Buchanan, RBS Chair of Scotland Board; Keith Skeoch, CEO Standard Life Aberdeen, the Rt Hon. Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chairman, Mastercard were joined by leading global academics, businessmen and women, and international diplomats to share findings and discuss best practices.

The two-day conference broke new ground in advancing the discussion on gender at the intersection of economics, politics, geography and health. It culminated in a commitment for action from several sectors including health, technology, finance, enterprise and education, as it focused on the importance of concrete actions across societies, industry and governments. Hon Luis Guillermo Sallis Rivera emphasized in his keynote speech that the seven key drivers of economic empowerment are relevant across all sectors and geographies, whether it is industry or health; at home or in the workplace. From tackling adverse norms and promoting positive role models; ensuring the right legal protection; recognising unpaid work and care; building and owning financial and digital assets to empower economically, to changing mind-sets and behaviours, and eliminating barriers in cultures, the work place and markets.

Dr. Margo Thomas, Founder and President of WEI explained, “We all know the key issues and drivers of women’s economic empowerment. We must focus now on actions. As a global organization, WEI, with the support of our WEI Board and Advisory Council, is leveraging its global networks, affiliations, and partnerships to share knowledge, craft solutions, and catalyse concrete actions to help advance women’s economic empowerment and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the benefit of all.”

In welcoming the conference attendees to Edinburgh during the opening reception at City Chambers, the Right Honourable Lord Provost of Edinburgh noted that Scotland is making strides in creating an environment where more women and girls can start up in business and thrive

Carolyn Currie, Chief Executive, Women’s Enterprise Scotland explained that “As a catalyst for economic growth and inclusion, WES works to create an environment where women can start up in business and thrive. The simple fact is that more women-owned businesses in Scotland means more money for the economy. Research shows that women-owned businesses already contribute a staggering GBP 8.8 bn into the economy every year and have created over 230,000 jobs in local communities across Scotland.”

WEI was established in 2018 in response to the call to action of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. Since its launch, WEI has embarked on several global initiatives focussing on innovation, enterprise and trade, spearheading action to create and grow sustainable economic opportunities for women.

Women’s equality and empowerment is one of the United Nations’ 17 SDGs and is central to all aspects of inclusive and sustainable development. The G20, leaders of the most powerful 20 countries in the world, made this commitment at their summit in Osaka in June 2019: “Gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential for achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth. We reconfirm their importance in all aspects of our policies and as a cross-cutting issue at upcoming Summits.” However, according to the SDG Index research, no country is currently on track to achieve all SDG’s by 2030[1].

The platinum sponsors of the conference were The Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Life Aberdeen and Mastercard. Additional sponsors included AllAfrica, the University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School, Newcastle University Business School, Durham University Business School, Portsmouth University and Business Gateway Edinburgh, among others.

[1] Berteslmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (2018) viii

Ends

Notes to Editors

  • Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) works to create an entrepreneurial environment where women-led businesses can flourish. WES collaborates with other business support organisations to help close the gender gap in enterprise
  • Research shows that women-owned businesses in Scotland contribute £8.8bn into the economy every year and have created over 230,000 jobs[1]
  • WES is a member of the T20, the think tank and “ideas bank” of the G20 and participated in the T20 Summit in Tokyo in 2019 and in Buenos Aires in 2018
  • Dr Margo Thomas, founder of WEI, is the co-Chair of the Gender Economic Equity workstream of the T20
  • WEI is a global, collaborative initiative to promote women’s economic empowerment and was founded in January 2018 as a response to the Call to Action of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.
  • WEI seeks to catalyze and advance the transformative work of empowering women as economic actors globally through Entrepreneurship, Advocacy and Thought Leadership
  • Full text of the G20 Osaka Leaders’ declaration https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/06/29/national/full-text-g20-osaka-leaders-declaration/#.XRspdS2ZOb8
  • Details of conference speakers and biographies can be found here https://www.weiforward.org/conference/

Women’s Economic Imperative

www.weiforward.org

@WEIFORWARD

[1] ‘Supporting Women’s Enterprise in the UK; the Economic Case’, FSB (2018)

#Newsroom: Launch of the APPG WE Report: The Future of #Female #Entrepreneurship: Pathways to Progress

Noreen Cesareo, Co-chair of the International Trade and Connections sub-group within the All Party Parliamentry Group (APPG) for Women and Enterprise is proud to be a contributor to the first report ‘The Future of Female Entrepreneurship: Pathways to Progress’ issued by the group which includes recommendations to Government and Industry.

The report was launched at Westminster on July 16 2019.
The APPG report establishes the current experience faced by female entrepreneurs, and sees the potential growth of women-owned businesses as an area of economic opportunity for the UK.  They already contribute an impressive £115 billion to the economy, despite the fact that they currently secure significantly less than 5% of corporate and public sector contracts.
This first report focuses on three major issues identified as facing female entrepreneurs:

  • Access to Finance
  • Business Support, Coaching and Mentoring
  • International Trade and Connections

The International Trade and Connections group conducted extensive research, interviews and study over three years. Among our list of recommendations in this field to Government and Industry, we highlight the following:

Role Models for Exporting
Our findings highlight the lack of visible role models from among women-owned businesses that are exporting internationally. There is also a gap in the number of trained official advisors from government, NGOs or private organisations specifically appointed to advise on international trade and support women-business owners get to international markets.

Seen from an international trading perspective, UK women-owned businesses in particular face different issues to their male counterparts, due to differences in cultural norms which can create barriers in access. There were many anecdotal examples of where this has happened particularly during negotiations or when discussing specific detail within areas of expertise which was particularly visible in fields such as logistics, construction, which have historically been male-dominated and run.

Setting Standards Internationally
Currently there are countries in the Commonwealth and North America that are ensuring women-owned businesses have a foothold in international markets. By working with them and seeking to set international standards, the UK will be regarded as one of the drivers in this field, which has the potential to open doors for women-owned businesses to extend their markets.

There are many instances where this can take place through existing channels, such as the cross-Government initiative “Exporting is Great” campaign and organisations that promote UK companies such as Made in Britain (manufacturing), Chamber of Commerce and Institute Of Directors. The UK has always been regarded as one of the leading countries in international trade, and such campaigns will continue to emphasise this message and create openings into new markets.

A lack of gender disaggregated data was also a recurring theme throughout our inquiry which has the consequence of restricting the ability to create effective forward strategies.

The full report can be downloaded here.

 

#WomenOwned #WEI #WEConnect #PinkShoe #TeamEB