WASHINGTON, DC, March 19, 2020 – As global citizens prepare to fight against the current COVID-19 pandemic, I have been inspired by the individual stories of the women-owned businesses in the WEConnect International community and the resilience of my team and our supporters around the world.
As the CEO of a global non-profit, I’m used to spending my life in airports and airplanes flying to meetings, speaking at conferences and meeting with our member buyers and the women business owners who supply a wide assortment of goods and services. But my intense travel schedule has ground to a halt as meetings have been cancelled or postponed.
Earlier this month, I was fortunate to be at our WEConnect International South Africa Conference “Scaling Up in 2020 for Sustainable Growth” in Johannesburg. I met several exceptional women business owners and large buyers committed to inclusion.
Many are stepping up to help us all face the Coronavirus challenge, like Refilwe Sebothoma, whose company PBM Group is supplying face masks. Belukazi Nkala, who owns Khanyile Solutions, is providing protective uniforms. And Judy Sunasky’s company, Blendwell Chemicals, is producing hand sanitizer.
On the other side of the world, in Singapore, Rithika Gupta, is also increasing hand sanitizer production at her company FP Aromatics as is Sarah Sayed’s company BX Merchandise in the UK. WEConnect International educates and certifies women’s business enterprises based in over 45 countries and women business owners such as these have registered with us in over 120 countries.
There are approximately 224 million women entrepreneurs worldwide, who participate in the ownership of nearly 35 percent of firms in the formal economy. As traditional value chains shift, these business owners can step in to meet buyer demand.
Here in DC, the WEConnect International Team has decided to hold our annual Gala and Symposium virtually. This is not a cancellation or a postponement, but rather an opportunity for champions of diversity to leverage technology in support of inclusive global growth.
We are committed to creating opportunity in the face of adversity and have engaged our award winners, member buyers, women-owned businesses and strategic partners to join us for our first-ever 24-hour Cyber Gala culminating with the Announcement of our Top 10 Global Champions.
Governments are taking the pandemic seriously and are working hard to protect their citizens through social distancing while meeting the needs of those who fall sick. In addition to the human suffering, the virus has hurt domestic and international business. As a result, governments and business are working together to diversify supply chains to help mitigate future shocks to local and global economies.
We are proud of our member buyers with over US$1 trillion in annual purchasing power that are actively investing time and resources to build global inclusive sourcing strategies. Our searchable online database of thousands of women-owned businesses is one of the largest in the world used by qualified buyers to find competitive suppliers.
Globally, women control or influence over $20 trillion in annual consumer spending and make up to 85 percent of consumer purchasing decisions. And yet, on average only 1 percent of corporate- and government- spend on products and services worldwide goes to women-owned businesses.
WEConnect International aims to move the needle beyond the 1 percent by creating market access opportunities. Promoting supplier diversity and inclusion will not only accelerate women’s economic inclusion but will also help to minimize disruptions within value chains and help women grow their businesses to have a positive impact on their communities. It’s a win-win for buyers and women suppliers around the world who are ready to step up to meet the demand and deliver value for money.
Elizabeth A. Vazquez
CEO and Co-Founder, WEConnect International
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