WE EMPOWER: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs to Drive Economic Growth

8 Jul '20 Wed 16:30 CEST07/15/2020 12:00am EuroGender Online Discussion public WE EMPOWER: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs to Drive Economic Growth Europe/Vilnius 07/08/2020 5:30pm
14 Jul '20 Tue 23:00 CEST

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Gabriela Kostovska Bogoeska's picture

Good morning, afternoon and evening on my behalf as well!! Happy to be co-faciliating this final discussion as well. I am here as a WEgate community coordinator, working on mobilizing WE eco-system in EU for increased impact on public policies and representing women entrepreneurs' interest at a larger scale (https://wegate.eu/). Looking forward to chatting on the different things we can do to position women as leaders in the heart of recovery.

Zoe Dean-Smith's picture

Good day all

Barbara Orser's picture

To kick off the discussion, how can we ensure women leaders are at the forefront of pandemic recovery response and strategies?  

Nancy Mitchell

Further to this general question, how can each sector ensure women are represented and at the forfront of recovery along the pipeline of advacenement (not only representation of women who are already in leadership roles)? Moreover, how can we ensure that women's leadership in recovery strategies is then translated into leadership and decision-making more broadly once recovery strategies are applied?

Zoe Dean-Smith

To Nancy's question, there is a need for more mentorship opportunities and leadership development training, over and above all the other business development capacity building that is offered - a more holistic approach, to ensure long term success.  

Zoe Dean-Smith's picture

Based on two surveys that Vital Voices has conducted with the women entrepreneurs in our global network over the past 3 months in response to COVID19, we know that a large focus is being placed on rapid innovationand new product development, the need for diversification of revenue streams and much learning is needed on risk mitigation strategies for the future

Zoe Dean-Smith's picture

We are seeing success stories where women entrepreneurs are beginning to pool their resources and form collaborative business initiatives


Barbara Orser's picture

To inform ideas about the challenges of inclusion and collaboration, our 2019 Canadian assessment of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, found that:

  • Most collaboration among ENT mainstream and women-focused support organizations takes the form of sponsorship or event support and cross-promotions --- and that more meaningful collaboration is needed, such as advocacy and the co-development of ENT programs and training. 
  • Study participants also sought better co-ordination of federal, provincial, (state) and municipal funding to address program duplication and fragmentation of services. This is likely to be an issue with respect to pandemic recovery measures as well.
  • Participants also expressed the need to streamline administrative oversight and reporting, particularly with respect to the small women-focused programs, relative to larger (e.g., innovation) programs.

Good practice: working with multi-national forums such as the OECD and WE Empower to leverage collective SM reach, messaging, expertise and tools - and pushing government to fund womens support/advocacy groups to strengthen the ecosystem for women entrepreneurs.

Gabriela Kostovska Bogoeska

Indeed, during our peer-learning webinar organised together with WEgate cooperating partners we have concluded that we need to continue working on three levels: supporting women entrepreneurs through access to markets/finance/information tailored made to this new reality; re-shaping our services as WE stakeholders to correspond to the new normal; and accelerate the policy response (more gender-responsive trade policies, procurement, investors focused on women and alike).

Zoe Dean-Smith

Regarding access to markets, as the need for products and services have shifted since March 2020, it would be invaluable for women entrepreneurs to have access to research findings on market trends 

Barbara Orser's picture

Zoe, are the Vital Voices study findings available to the public?

Zoe Dean-Smith

Yes, we would be happy to share this information. We havent yet done so


Carla Kraft's picture

Carla Kraft representing the WE EMPOWER programme of  UN Women, ILO and the EU here. Looking forward to a lively discussion. Please don't forget to promote the online discussion on social media and tag @Empower_Women (Twitter) and @EmpWomen (Facebook)!

Zoe Dean-Smith's picture

In terms of capacity building training currently being offered by many orgs to women entrepreneurs, over and above the "traditional" course curricula such as strategic planning, human resources management, branding, marketing etc, the new content that we are seeing a need for, based on recent COVID-19 impact survey responses includes :

  • How to fast track to digital innovation
  • business continuity planning
  • financial crisis management
  • making teleworking work
  • human resources : rebuilding your team
  • identifying market trends and rebuilding consumer trust
  • risk mitigation strategies
  • diversification of revenue streams
Zoe Dean-Smith's picture

Another initiative that has worked well with the women entrepreneurs in our global network as they navigate the impact of this pandemic on their businesses over the past couple of months has been to organize cohorts of up to 10 women together for 60 or 90 minute "mastermind" calls on Zoom, where they have each had the opportunbity to share their challenges with the others, and then receive thought leadership from the others on the call. While they have not necessarily known each other beforehand and may have been connecting across multiple time zones and continents, two great outcomes have been :

  • they no longer feel so alone in their challenges
  • they have been sharing ideas, contacts and solutions as they all pivot, change direction, change products and services etc

This has been hugely successful

Gabriela Kostovska Bogoeska's picture

Indeed, building capacities in regards to digital and financial literacy is quite relevant. We have good examples of WE stakeholders organising webinars or online sessions from members to members or together with finance providers. Thus, not only informing women entrepreneurs on the possibilities for financing but moreover giving them concrete support in accessing it. Another thing we are doing in the scope of WEgate is featuring interviews with female entrepreneurs who are thriving in spite of COVID-19, so to motivate and inspire others (https://wegate.eu/success-stories).  

Zoe Dean-Smith

Yes, we 100% agree. Financial literacy is absolutely key to success and what we have observed over the years is that many entrepreneurs are not particularly strong on their numbers, with many of them paying an accountant or bookkeper to manage that part of their business. If we had to "bucket" the financial literacy pieces, for success, it would probably look like this :

  • know your numbers (finance for business 101)
  • understanding financial risk and mitigation strategies
  • accessing finance - loans, grants, pitching etc
Barbara Orser's picture

THX -- This is very helpful information for womens enterprise support ORGNs.

A collaborative women leader who is driving fast-track digital transformation is Sonya Shorey, VP Marketing/Communication at Invest Ottawa and champion of the Mainstreet Program and  WomXn Founders program. The Ottawa program is modelled after Toronto's Digital Mainstreet (https://digitalmainstreet.ca/) Collaboration is further evidenced through contributions by business/legal students, other volunteers and industry leaders rallying to transition brick 'n mortar firms to online commerce - a huge task -one in which your survey indicates iskey to support women entrepreneurs



Gabriela Kostovska Bogoeska's picture

For sure one aspect we need to address is closing the digital gender divide. Another important area is internationalization (access to markets, supply chains, etc.). Women entrepreneurs for instance can use the free services of the Enterprise Europe Network (https://een.ec.europa.eu/) in order to find potential partners from more then 60 countries, participate at (virtual) matchmaking events and seek tailored made assistance (on IP, funding, programmes, etc.). And visit ongoing market places for new market opportunities (https://care-industry-together-against-corona.b2match.io/). 

Barbara Orser's picture

I am pondering how we might work together to ensure more women are driving and desiging COVID-19 $ measures.  On the first rounds of relief, we saw that support for women entrepreneurs was non-existant or at best, lagging (as discussed on this platform).  How might we ensure that women are leading recovery $ rather than watching "other" businesses benefit from public procurement spending and other relief investments?

Gabriela Kostovska Bogoeska's picture

Sorry Zoe, I've by mistake reported your comment as offensive:) so more digital skills needed for me as well!


Gabriela Kostovska Bogoeska

No, it is still there (the one about financial literacy, replying to my comment), I wanted to mention that we are talking about more response from investors needed, but we also need to work harder on the investment readiness of women entrepreneurs, so I completely agree with you!

Carla Kraft's picture

Loving the sharing of resources, ideas and recommendations. What about the role of women's leadership and decision-making, including in  companies and advancing parity on boards as both a strategy and tool for buidling back better?  Would love to hear some insights from W20 on this point.

On the Women's Empowerment Principles website you will find various case studies highlighting actions and lessons learned on this. For example one from RELX on "Improving the Gender Balance on Baords and in Leadership".

Gabriela Kostovska Bogoeska

Absolutely, we need more women to be decision makers in our future societies, these hard times might lead us to creating a more equal world that will be more resilient to future crises. Therefore, the response should place women entrepreneurs – their inclusion, representation and equality – at the heart of the recovery, this is not only in the interest of women entrepreneurs but the entire economy.

Zoe Dean-Smith's picture

Thank you for this discussion, Barbara and Gabriela


Barbara Orser's picture

Great question Carla. A priority of W20 advocacy is ‘inclusive decision-making’ - the theme of today's online forum. This includes:

gender equality in public political decision-making. 

equitable access and representation of women in politics and policy-making bodies. 

And an increase the number of women decision-makers in business.

These recommendations are underscored by the need to establish targets and quotas to ensure full gender parity on the boards of public and listed companies, and to provide incentives for employers that achieve gender parity in decision-making positions.  

As evidenced in global changes associated with Black Lives Matter -- change happens with public advocacy and pressure on corporate boards via funders/government/sponsors (no diverse women =  no sponsorship, investment, etc.).  There is need for governments/investor/publics to hold back $ without demonstrated support of diverse women in leadership - including boards.

Gabriela Kostovska Bogoeska's picture

It was a real pleasure e-meeting you all, thank you for the discussion Zoe and Barbara! 

Virginia Littlejohn's picture

So sorry that I couldn't dialogue live with everyone, but I had a Chatham House Zoom conference call on women entrepreneurial, financial, and access to markets issues that I had to be on.  I've got another Zoom call starting in a few minutes, but will respond to these posts after I get off of that call.

Barbara Orser's picture

Thanks Virginia - this online discussion platform is open  until 5:00 p.m. EST  

We look forward to receiving your feedback and ideas....

Barbara Orser's picture

Thanks Zoe and Gabriela - I enjoyed our discussion and opportunity to communicate with you.

Charlene Lambert's picture

Hello everyone, I'm Charlene Lambert with the Women Entrepreneurship Platform in Brussels. The women entrerpeneurship group that I work with in the Netherlands has found this kind of mastermind group meeting online to be a fantastic way of keeping in touch, sharing some important ideas and getting through the crisis. We are organizing these informal meetings in additon to our monthly networking event with a speaker, and our book club. Some are open just for members, and some are open to everyone. Women have a strong need for affiliation, and bringing and keeping us together is important for our success. Thanks to the technology, we can still be in touch with each other.

Nancy Mitchell's picture

Hi All. Many, many thanks for the robust discussions had over the last week. We have logged recommendations to be used to inform our upcoming advocacy tool. If you have yet to, we kindly ask that you share your experiences with us via our survey

Thanks again to all our facilitators and participants, as well as EuroGender for hosting this dialogue on their platform.

Alexandrina Satnoianu

It was a pleasure to host the discussion, Nancy! Please count on the EuroGender support at all times!

Virginia Littlejohn's picture

One thing that I think that we will see over the next 8-12-18 months or more is much less business travel. The rich and robust successes of this online forum, the Chatham House Zoom forum that has been going on at almost the exact same time as this forum, and the Women 20 (W20) virtual policy development process of our Communique, a series of policy briefs, and the beginnings of the advocacy process have convinced me that a great deal of what has in the past "necessitated" business travel can in fact be done more effectively virtually via a mix of video conferencing and online fora.

After the September 11 attacks in the US, my company at the time, TradeBuilders, initiated a series of virtual trade missions -- with the first between the US and Canada, our wonderful sisters from the North.  I think that we are again going to be seeing an explosion in ecommerce (unfortunately, at the expense of traditional retail).  And further, that we will need to do much more with virtual trade missions and international business matchmaking.  I'm interested to know what best practices exist in terms of verfication and validation as to the reliability of international partners when international business travel is not feasible or safe.


Virginia Littlejohn's picture

Zoe, I love your list of training needs identified from the Covid-19 impact survey.  Was that done only with VV Grow, or other programs too?

Virginia Littlejohn's picture

Hi Gabriela,

Have enjoyed your comments on this forum.  I am Co-Head of the US delegation to the W20 and Chair the Women's Entrepreneurship Working Group of the W20.  Improving the ecosystem for women's entrepreneurship in G20 countries is a major priority, and I would extremely interested in talking with you further about WEgate.  I'm pretty maxed out this week, but perhaps we could talk via Zoom next week.  My email is vlittlejohn@quantumleapsinc.org -- hope that we can connect soon.  Best, Virginia

Virginia Littlejohn's picture

Barb and Zoe, I'm really sorry that I couldn't be online with you live, but we were discussing the women entrepreneurial agenda with Chatham House via Zoom at the identical time, and I had to be online for that.  Va

Stephanie Dei's picture

Thank you all for joining this discussion. A special thanks to the European Union for their generous support of the WE EMPOWER programme which has enabled us to co-host this discussion. Thanks also to the European Institute for Gender Equality and the Eurogender collaboration platform for being our amazing co-host. 

It has been a beautiful journey this past week as we have seen everyone come together to share resources, best practices and innovative ideas on what is needed to strengthen women’s economic empowerment. We have heard insightful and thought-provoking comments on innovative financial tools, uniting the ecosystem through coordination and collaboration, leveraging digital technology to enhance skills and gender smart entrepreneurship in education as a lever for change and so much more.

We are excited to go through all your comments and build the Advocacy Tool based off of your recommendations and inputs. The Advocacy Tool can be used to strengthen communication with stakeholders to effectively seek the support needed to enhance women’s entrepreneurship among key decision-makers. Please join us on 9 September as we share back the Advocacy Tool - more info can be found here.

Although this is the end of our online discussion we hope this is the beginning of new partnerships and friendships. We continue to invite business leaders to make a commitment to gender equality by signing on to the Women’s Empowerment Principles. The WEPs framework is at the core of the WE EMPOWER – G7 programme and our main platform for change. 

Lastly, we hope to have your feedback on this Online Discussion. Kindly fill out our survey.

On behalf of the WE EMPOWER G7 Team – thank you and hope to see you again on 9 September!

Golah-Ebue Avwerosuoghene Hope's picture

Thank you so much for sharing these relevant information @Barbara Orser.