Women in the Global Economy

International Trade Forum, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Women in the Global Economy


CHALLENGES

Women entrepreneurs can be invisible to trade and development policy-makers.

Many women entrepreneurs - whether they manage large, small or micro businesses - don't participate in the business circles that decision-makers know and consult. A majority of women entrepreneurs are isolated in marginal economic areas such as micro and informal enterprises; in some countries, they account for up to 70% of such businesses.

And trade organizations - ministries, chambers of commerce, export programmes, associations - don't reach out specifically to women, expecting women's organizations to bridge the gap. Existing export assistance, when available, may not come to their attention or match their needs. For example, many women entrepreneurs work in the services sector, while export assistance tends to focus on trade in goods.

Cultural traditions can also hold women back from playing a more prominent role in economic life. This can take the form of informal dissuasion from working outside the home or the laws in some countries, which forbid women from inheriting property and thus preclude them from any but the smallest business activities.

While women in business face challenges common to all small firms - such as access to credit, contacts and training - their problems are magnified by lack of access to the networks that can help them compete in global business.

Yet, ITC's experience shows that when women have the opportunity to develop their businesses, countries can benefit tremendously. Many women exporters are not just businesswomen, but "social entrepreneurs" as well. Through their experiences, they prove that a commitment to development goes hand-in-hand with their drive for export growth. It makes good business sense and good development sense to encourage women to build their businesses.

SOLUTIONS

* Networking. Target businesswomen's groups in membership drives for chambers of commerce, and trade and professional associations. Encourage networking between government officials, international experts and women entrepreneurs. Link groups of businesswomen to enhance communication and cooperation on trade issues. …

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