A WEI delegation took part in the 7th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Multi-Year Expert Meeting on Enhancing the Inclusive Dimension of Enterprise Development which took place at the Palais des Nations, Geneva between 17-19th June 2019.
The delegation consisted of Yolanda Gibb, Trade Lead, who was a discussant during the session covering Empowering Women Entrepreneurs; Noreen Burroughes Cesareo and Nicole Pitter Patterson.
The Expert Meeting which brought together delegates from countries around the United Nations, discussed how the sustainable and inclusive dimension of enterprise development could be enhanced by promoting responsible business practices, corporate social responsibility and inclusive entrepreneurship that can facilitate progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
During the meeting, delegates heard and reviewed examples of inclusive business models and how awareness of good sustainable and inclusive business practices could be facilitated. They also heard about policies that are being drafted, or that are already in place, that strengthen the role of entrepreneurship for inclusive growth and sustainable development. As part of the agenda, they considered how the UNCTAD Entrepreneurship Policy Framework could be adapted and expanded to address the challenges of sustainable and inclusive growth, including creating employment opportunities and engendering inclusive outcomes for disadvantaged groups of the population such as youth, women, migrants, persons with disabilities and the poor.
The session on Empowering Women Entrepreneurs was a lively and interactive session, with academics, representatives from various government and NGOs presenting models and best practice from their regions. Entrepreneurs were also invited to speak and to voice their journeys and challenges as women entrepreneurs. As session discussant, Yolanda was invited to speak on behalf of WEI. She discussed the issue of equality vs equity, saying that women and men are not the same, and that what we should be looking for is equity not equality, fair treatment and fair access. She explained how although we may think that suitable policies are in place, in actual fact they are not gender neutral – and while the issues in general are the same across genders, the solutions are different, and must fit the culture, the economy and the informal mechanisms at work. They must also involve stakeholder engagement right from the beginning. Yolanda went on to add that there are further issues concerning impact measurement; disaggregated statistics are largely missing. Furthermore, impact measurement has a qualitative aspect and this is not being taken into consideration. Economic empowerment for women should be felt by them. How is this to be measured?
Noreen Burroughes Cesareo then tabled a question on women entrepreneurs that fall below the VAT threshold. She brought forward the example of the work being done in the UK to collect data on women entrepreneurs. She explained how many women entrepreneurs are micro-businesses and sole traders. As a segment, they typically fall in a space that is not easy to measure, and as a result, cannot be included in gender disaggregated statistics. In the UK, there are multiple efforts to find a way to measure this, involving government, the UK Economic Blueprint, various organisations in industry, as well as academia. Noreen asked the delegates present whether any country has found a way to capture this segment.
Other key highlights included the work of Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) empowering women entrepreneurs to grow their business through the power of technology, expansion of global networks and access to capital. In addition, the focus of the International Robotics Academy, Jordan led by Co-Founder Ms. Lama Sha’sha’a underscored the critical importance of gender balanced digital skills training to equip the work force of the future and to ensure inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Further valuable connections were made with representatives of academia, NGOs, private sector entities, enterprise development partners and digital training organizations for prospective WEI collaborations.
Yolanda, Noreen and Nicole form part of the WEI International Trade team.