Imagine a world where women have the same opportunities as men to design and implement business solutions that create wealth and sustainable prosperity in their communities. A place where equal access to markets, regardless of gender, is the norm, and investment dollars flow just as freely and heavily to women-owned businesses as those owned by men.
But we’re not there yet—not even close. Although one third of all private businesses in the world are owned by women, it’s hard to believe that in 2021 women-owned businesses would still be accessing less than one percent of large corporate and government buyer spend. Just one percent for the 30 percent!
That’s why WEConnect International launched its #Rise2theChallenge campaign for our 110+ global members. Organizations will have one year to publicly commit to a specific spend target and/or relevant project to advance opportunities for women-owned businesses around the world. Over the course of the next year, WEConnect International will track, aggregate and share the commitment amounts and celebrate the final amounts and our collective achievement next year on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2022.
Our member buyers understand the value of intentionally reaching out to diverse suppliers. They recognize that gender equality is both a social issue and an economic opportunity. They know that increasing their collective average spend with women-owned businesses from just one to two percent will produce multi-billion dollar results—results that positively impact families, businesses and economies.
That’s why some, like Intel, were inspired to #Rise2theChallenge. Intel made its public commitment last week by announcing its new goal of spending $500 million annually with women-owned businesses by the end of 2025.
“Intel is expanding our commitment to empower diverse-owned suppliers globally, who generate innovation and value within our supply chain,” said Jackie Sturm, CVP Global Supply Chain Operations at Intel. “Working closely with WEConnect International helps us grow and strengthen female entrepreneurs and business leaders. With our new goal of spending $500M annually with women-owned businesses by the end of 2025, we can help drive greater socioeconomic equity in the communities where we operate and beyond.”
Making a public commitment to a specific spend or funding target with women-owned businesses takes long-term vision, leadership and courage. But it’s also a smart business decision for our member buyers because women will be the dominant source of economic growth in the near future. According to the International Labour Organization, advancing women’s equality in business would increase global GDP by US$5.8 trillion by 2025. The 11,000+ strong women-owned business that make up WEConnect International’s community will also benefit, but there are millions more out there that deserve access to our network.
We’re not moving fast enough, but we can get there if we work together. In fact, we need to work together to accelerate progress toward the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, Gender Equality by 2030. Progress toward SDG 5 can only be made with intentional and visible actions from senior leaders of large organizations supported by spend with women-owned businesses. For so many years, actions have been led by procurement and forward-thinking diversity, equality and inclusion leaders in organizations. Many organizations and governments have worked to raise awareness of the challenges diversity and inclusion are designed to solve, but there has been little change beyond the workforce.
The general consensus is that meaningful change has been agonizingly slow for the majority of women around the world and one of the easiest ways to accelerate progress is for large buyers to proactively include more women-owned businesses in procurement opportunities, resulting in more spend with competitive women-owned businesses.
We can’t wait any longer to engage our buyers and suppliers in the kind of bold, quantifiable actions that will yield measurable results for decades to come. And we can’t wait any longer to celebrate those leaders who are setting an example for others to follow. This is not only the right thing to do, it is good business. Now is the time for all organizations committed to equality and inclusive growth to #Rise2theChallenge.