Why women business owners are most promising engine of inclusive economic growth for South Asia and beyond

To begin to realise the potential of women as business owners, the private and public sectors need to work together to enable greater access to markets and funding

Why women business owners are most promising engine of inclusive economic growth for South Asia and beyond

Women business leaders are gradually making a mark globally. Image courtesy Corporal Natalie Rostran/Wikimedia Commons

According to “How to Rebuild Global Business for Good,” a special report underwritten by Moody’s Corporation and TD Bank Group and led by WEConnect International, when women business owners gain access to markets and capital, everyone benefits—employees, families, communities and the global economy.

However, women-owned businesses continue to be one of the most underutilised drivers of innovation and job growth in both developed and emerging markets. Although nearly one-third of all private businesses in the world are owned by women, those same businesses receive less than 1 per cent of large corporate and government buyer spend. If this imbalance was remedied—or even marginally improved upon—trillions of dollars would in turn be reinvested by women directly into employees, families and communities worldwide.

According to research by the International Labour Organisation, advancing women’s equality in business would increase the global GDP by $5.8 trillion by 2025. Not surprisingly, most of this increase would come from emerging economies. Therefore, while everyone will undoubtedly benefit from levelling the gender gap, there are a few countries, because of their size and population, that are poised to experience incredible gains; especially those countries in South Asia. India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have already demonstrated a higher level of political commitment to promoting and sustaining women entrepreneurs by creating a supportive environment through policy interventions.

Local communities also benefit when we support women business owners, as women are both uniquely positioned to understand the overall needs of their communities and more motivated by a desire to materially improve the quality of life for all those around them. In practical terms, this takes the form of reducing poverty by increasing overall employment through more small businesses, improving health and communal well-being by engaging more in those commercial enterprises that address family-level needs and encouraging widespread basic education by focusing on literacy. And it is precisely because women who own businesses tend to focus on local needs, that they have a better overall record of success in many areas compared to me, including repaying loans more reliably.

To begin to realise the potential of women as business owners, the private and public sectors need to work together to enable greater access to markets and funding. Business training and the development of growth-oriented women suppliers seeking market access are critical. In a similar vein, non-governmental organizations also have a key role to play in facilitating capacity building, access to markets, access to finance, and business networking.

With so much opportunity, it is clear that women business owners represent the most promising engine of economic inclusion and remarkable growth. Investment in women entrepreneurs is not only an investment in South Asia’s multi-dimensional growth, but it also makes economies more resilient overall. Join me in leveraging the power and potential of women business owners, by buying more from a women-owned businesses today and every day!

Elizabeth A Vazquez is CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International and Eroshan Alagaretnam is the South Asia Regional Director, WEConnect International, a member-led, global non-profit that brings motivated, large corporate, multilateral and government buyers together with qualified women-owned suppliers around the world. Views are personal.

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