August 4, 2015


CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International Elizabeth A. Vazquez contributed the following post to the Virgin Unite blog.

Women-owned businesses are powerful drivers in innovation, increasing competitive advantage, and accelerating business growth. Investing in women produces a multiplier effect, as women reinvest a large portion of their income into their communities. However, around the world women entrepreneurs and the businesses they create face numerous market access challenges compared to men.

WEConnect International recognizes that women-owned businesses play an important role in boosting economies. Since 2009, our mission has been to help women-owned businesses succeed in global value chains, and we are proud to provide the knowledge, networks, certification and platform women business owners need to reach their goals.

WEConnect International is working with partners around the world to help level the playing field so that more women entrepreneurs have the opportunity to design and implement business solutions that create wealth, deliver jobs, and ensure the sustainable prosperity of their communities.

Here are the facts:

  • Women have only 60 percent of the economic opportunities of men worldwide.
  • There is an estimated $320 billion credit gap for women launching businesses around the world.
  • If women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs, the global GDP could rise by as much as 2 per cent or US$1.5 trillion.
  • Countries with the greatest gap between male and female employment rates suffer a loss between 15-35 per cent of their GDP.
  • Women-owned businesses earn less than 1 per cent of the money spent on vendors by large corporations and governments.

We’re up against a lot, but we’re already making great headway getting money into the hands of women.

WEConnect International is just over five years old, but today we already educate and certify women’s business enterprises in 17 countries and support women entrepreneurs more generally in over 90 countries.

More than 5,000 certified and self-registered women business owners have joined our eNetwork to connect with one another and to engage with our more than 60 members representing over US$1 trillion in annual purchasing power.

We see the impact of our work in every market we serve. Some of the women business owners we work with are now working with Walmart to produce educational toys out of Canada; providing public relations support to Dell in China; and charming international travelers with designer teas in Marriott hotels in the UK.

Our biggest market by far is Latin America. Last year, an Inter-American Development Bank’s report showed that the Latin American countries we have a presence in are among the best in the region for women starting and running their own businesses. We just launched this year in Colombia and one of our newly certified women business owners is already making waves in her country and the US.

Jimena Florez is the CEO and Co-Founder of Crispy Fruits, which offers a line of freeze-dried fruit snacks using produce from local farmers. In March, Jimena attended our inaugural Latin American Regional Forum. There she met a representative from a major hotel chain, and now she has a contract that will put Crispy Fruits in Bogota hotel rooms.

Her work has also caught the attention of President Obama, who publicly commended Jimena for supporting her local economy while promoting healthy eating habits – a cause dear to First Lady Michelle Obama.

These and many other success stories are not possible without the support of our members and partners. Closing this gender gap hinges on the close collaboration of corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations all knocking down the barriers that keep women from launching and expanding their own businesses.

Not only can organizations source more from women business owners, but consumers can also make a point of spending their money with women. WEConnect International and WBENC in the US have made it easier for shoppers at Walmart and other retailers to find products and services offered by certified businesses that use the Women Owned Logo.

We can all get more money into the hands of women if we just give women an equal opportunity to earn it!