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Washington, DC
January 7, 2022

Rising to the challenge in 2021 and leveraging inclusive trade in 2022 – by Elizabeth A. Vazquez

2021 was a noteworthy year full of highs and lows around the globe. As we exit the holiday season and attempt to welcome all that 2022 will bring, I want to take a moment to reflect on the year behind us, celebrate our collective progress and focus on what lies ahead. 

Although the pandemic has lasted longer than many of us initially anticipated—disrupting global value chains and creating new barriers to business growth—I am proud of the resilience demonstrated by the women-owned businesses we serve and the commitments to impact made by our member buyers. Many of the women business owners in our network pivoted their business models to anticipate and support new business needs by adjusting their old methods and adopting new technologies to thrive in an unstable economic landscape. I’m in awe! 

And the many ways our global community is rising to the challenge has paid off in inspiring ways. Of the 14,000 registered women-owned businesses in our network that are based in over 130 countries, two-thirds participated in various training courses to improve their business capacities. In addition to innovative learning opportunities, many were introduced to qualified buyers representing hundreds of business opportunities shared through the WEConnect International community.  

Our member buyer network also grew to include over 150 of the largest industry leaders in the world, from corporations to multilateral institutions. They continue to offer their professional expertise and connections to growth-oriented women business owners and pave the way to a new normal—one dedicated to leveraging inclusive trade for inclusive prosperity for all. 

I am also inspired by the WEConnect International team for remaining agile and innovative as we faced even higher levels of demand from women-owned businesses, corporations, multilaterals and hundreds of local partners. We have launched Women’s Business Enterprise Certification in five new countries, continued our partnerships with major international banks, and expanded our services to support national government agencies. It’s been an extraordinary year. 

Yet, there is still much more work to be done. 

Women drive the global economy as business leaders, employees and consumers by making or influencing more than 80 percent of consumer purchasing decisions. Women account for more than $20 trillion in annual purchasing power, and yet they receive less than 1 percent of the money spent on vendors by large corporations and governments. Our collective ability to benefit from the powerful solutions women business owners have to offer is still very limited.  

One way to drive change is to use these powerful facts to raise public awareness and share our stories of what happens when organizations leverage inclusive trade to ensure women have an equal opportunity to compete and win as business owners and job creators. To that end, we’ve created this brief video that is scheduled to run on American Airlines flight channels during the month of March. But it benefits us all to start sharing it far, wide and often now. Please take a minute, watch it and share it on your social networks and directly with your other networks.  

Supplier diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. I am hopeful that more of the world sees and acts on this local and global opportunity for collective impact at scale in the new year. 

We encourage every member of the WEConnect International community to take advantage of their affiliation and leverage our global resources 

From all of us at WEConnect International, we wish you a healthy and happy new year!

Elizabeth A. Vazquez 

CEO and Co-founder, WEConnect International