From 2010-2019, on average, 68% of firms across the world did not have any women in ownership, while only 16% were owned by women2. There are significant economic and social costs associated with women’s underrepresentation in business including lower economic growth and fewer decent employment. Losses of income from women’s inactivity can reach up to 30% of gross domestic product in countries with high gender inequalities.
To raise awareness on this costly gender gap and to promote women’s entrepreneurship, in 2008 UNCTAD launched the Empretec Women in Business Awards, aimed to recognize the contributions of inspiring women entrepreneurs, to celebrate their success and to empower women. As UNCTAD actively contributes to raising awareness on social and environmental pillars of the 2030 Agenda and promoting inclusive and sustainable businesses that can support Member States in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNCTAD also introduced three special categories: (i) circular economy, (ii) sustainable agriculture and (iii) inclusive business, to highlight the contribution of women entrepreneurs.
In 2020, more than 30 nominations were received from 13 Empretec centres across the world. The finalists were selected by a panel of distinguished experts in business and entrepreneurship based on three criteria: innovation, leadership, and impact on their community. All finalists have put their expertise and passion into their businesses, in a variety of sectors, ranging from agribusiness to tourism, manufacturing and education. They have overcome obstacles and persevered to establish and grow successful companies, creating jobs and giving back to their communities, spearheading cultural changes, and serving as role models.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a major negative shock on women in business. A common thread of all finalists this year is their resilience amid the pandemic thanks to their Empretec training. They identified opportunities during the crisis, remained committed to their employees, took calculated risks and initiative. Many had already adopted inclusive business models, with clear links to the achievement of the SDGs. Balancing motherhood and their careers, they have also accomplished the right work life balance, taking full advantage of the flexibility and independence gained in running their own businesses.
UNCTAD’s Empretec Women in Business Award together with the special category awards will be presented during a virtual ceremony on 10 December 2020.