Washington, DC
August 22, 2022

Leveraging Digital Technology to Connect Women Business Owners to Markets– By Gary Linden

While there are over 224 million women entrepreneurs worldwide who participate in the ownership of nearly 35% of all privately-owned firms in the formal economy, according to research conducted by WEConnect International, women-owned businesses globally earn less than 1% of the money spent on products and services by large corporations and governments.

Why are these women business owners invisible?

The challenges don’t end there. Women business owners, especially those in developing countries, encounter many obstacles to growing their businesses, including a lack of access to financial resources and business opportunities, as well as social and cultural constraints. Yet multinational buyers often struggle to find qualified gender-diverse suppliers—the very women-owned businesses that want to sell their goods and services in global supply chains.

WEConnect International is working to remove these barriers by providing visibility and access to women-owned businesses by leveraging technology on a truly global scale.

In partnership with USAID and our Global Development Alliance partners—SAP Ariba, Accenture, ExxonMobil, IBM and Procter & Gamble—WEConnect International has helped to bridge this gap by providing both a marketplace platform for buyers and suppliers to interact and by providing certification, education and training to increase the capacity of both women-owned businesses and buyers to understand and benefit from new business opportunities.

The program relies on a “virtual marketplace” delivered through an automated and multifunctional platform, WECommunity, which launched in October 2020, to create market linkages between buyers and sellers. Available in 10 languages, this database includes full profiles of thousands of registered or certified women-owned suppliers based in over 135 countries and is used exclusively by member buyers (including many of the largest corporations in the world) and women-owned suppliers. It contains a powerful search engine that enables buyers and sellers to connect, share business opportunities and contract with each other.

Yet many of these women business owners have never communicated with large multinationals before, let alone delivered on a contract for the same, and they want training. WEConnect International provides training to build capacity for women-owned businesses in areas such as strategic planning, marketing and sales, human resources and accounting, all of which will better enable them to compete for and win new business opportunities.

While connecting buyers with suppliers remain our top priority, WEConnect International also provides educational forums and best practice examples for multinational corporations, governments and foundations to create or enhance their international supplier diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Combined, these three key activities create an environment in which women-owned businesses have both knowledge of and access to the many business opportunities that more inclusive global value chains can provide.

And the results from our community of leaders are in:

  • Gender inclusive spending with women-owned businesses by member buyers rose from $1.87 billion to $3.87 billion in the final two years of the jointly funded activity.
  • Women-owned businesses in our network created more than 24,000 new jobs around the world in just the past year during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The number of corporate member buyers joining the WEConnect International network increased from 80 to 168 during the past three years.
  • 21,593 women-owned businesses are currently registered or certified with WEConnect International’s network.

While our collaborative efforts have had huge successes to date—as the above clearly shows—there is so much more that needs to be accomplished to ensure that women-owned businesses continue to thrive and deliver their much-needed solutions. And there are so many ways for you to be a part of this emerging success, whether you represent a large corporation, a government or multilateral donor, a women-owned business, or you are someone who wants to volunteer some of their time to support our growing community.

Join now!