Teni Majekodunmi CEO/Founder Eclectic Chique
Women business owners have an insatiable desire to succeed, and there is a growing body of research that actually shows that women are better entrepreneurs then men. Whatever the reason, the result is that these women are lifting themselves and their families up out of poverty, and by doing so, providing employment and economic opportunity to others.
When we think of lifting people out of poverty we generally think of traditional acts of charity: donating to organizations that provide food, water, clothing, shelter and medical supplies to the millions who are in critical need, often as a result of natural disasters or economic calamities. Unfortunately, COVID-19, a global pandemic with an economic side effect, has only increased that number. But anyone who has ever worked directly with those receiving charitable distributions knows that most do not want a handout, but the opportunity to make their own lives better. Whether you call it pride or basic human dignity, it is a powerful life-sustaining force that has the ability to transform not just individual lives, but families and whole communities.
Women business owners have an insatiable desire to succeed, and there is a growing body of research that actually shows that women are better entrepreneurs then men. Whatever the reason, the result is that these women are lifting themselves and their families up out of poverty, and by doing so, providing employment and economic opportunity to others. It is truly an economic rising tide that lifts all boats, regardless of a country’s wealth or stage of economic development. However, working women have been among the most vulnerable due to the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. This is especially true for the women owners of small and medium-sized enterprises. According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (WIWE) 2020 report, a staggering 87% of these women entrepreneurs say they have been adversely affected.
Why is this number so high? According to a number of additional research organizations, including the United Nations and WEConnect International, there are two primary reasons.
The first is business sectors. Women tend to be in more consumer-facing businesses. The more conspicuous of these are travel and tourism, hospitality and event services, education and childcare, medical, food services and restaurants.
Explaining that discrepancy takes us to the other primary reason: gender disparity. One undeniable aspect of gender disparity is the burden of domestic care responsibilities. In most cultures, even working women are still expected to be the primary caregiver, with the domestic disruptions caused by COVID-19 only adding to these responsibilities.
But there’s actually more to it than just that: when it comes to business ownership, women often just need a break – fair and equal access. Centuries of common practices and processes have created fundamental gender disparities. Financial marginalization and limited property rights are significant impediments to women business owners. These limit potential buyers and business partners from ever seeing innovative solutions women-owned businesses have created in engineering, automobile parts, logistics, or AI for example.
But women are resilient, and the human spirit is persistent. In our own recent survey, WEConnect International quantified how small and medium-sized women business owners are adapting to the current COVID-19 business climate. More than 60% of respondents reported that they have identified and cut unnecessary expenses. More than half reported that they have shifted to a new digital model, and about 40% reported finding a new business line to grow or an existing one in which to expand. And now, more than ever, women-owned businesses would benefit from the public and private sector coming together to help them gain access to markets. As my boss says--“women just want to sell their stuff.”
To be sure, this is an extraordinarily challenging moment in history for women-owned businesses. But that is exactly why it demands equally extraordinarily responsive action. And that is why, in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, WEConnect International, a Washington, D.C.-based global non-profit, is launching its #Rise2theChallenge campaign.
Specifically, we are urging our 110+ member buyers to publicly commit to a specific spend target or relevant project to advance opportunities for women-owned businesses around the world. Combined, these large corporate, multilateral and government organizations have over $1 trillion in annual purchasing power. That means that raising their collective spend by just 1% would put an additional $10 billion into the hands of women business owners, individuals who research has shown are more inclined than their male counterparts to invest their increased income in the health, education and well-being of their families and communities.
This year on International Women’s Day, let’s do more than just recognize women, let’s materially and definitively help them. Just buy their stuff! #Rise2theChallenge
WEConnect International is a Washington-D.C.-based global non-profit that brings motivated large corporate, multilateral and government buyers together with qualified women-owned suppliers around the world.