The 2030 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cover a broad spectrum of sustainability areas such as poverty eradication, health, education, climate change and environmental degradation, and can generate opportunities for women entrepreneurs.
At the same time, innovations, especially in digital and information and communications technologies (ICTs), are rapidly affecting the quality and quantity of jobs, offering new opportunities and challenges for women entrepreneurs. This includes women-owned businesses leveraging technology to move up the global and regional value chains, entering and progressing in non-traditional areas.
Artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous changes predicted in the skill sets needed. At the same time, ICTs also opened the door to small businesses, and individuals to participate directly in globalization.
According to a recent research by 99 designs of over 3,000 businesses worldwide, women entrepreneurs still face challenges in raising capital, hiring employees, and in work life balance. Women purchase 80% of the world’s goods, provide two-thirds of the world’s labour, hold 10% of the world’s wealth - and just 1% of the property rights, with women-owned businesses winning less than 1% of procurement contracts from governments and business.
To raise awareness of this economic gender gap and to support women’s entrepreneurship, in 2008, UNCTAD initiated the Empretec Women in Business Awards. This year, more than 50 nominations from 20 countries were received. The finalists were selected by a panel of distinguished experts in entrepreneurship on the basis of three criteria: innovation, leadership and impact in the community.
All the finalists have put their expertise and passion in the business. 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. They come from countries across Africa, Latin America and Middle East, and work in a variety of sectors ranging from education to garment manufacturing, construction, fashion and cultural industries, and agribusinesses.
A common thread of all finalists this year is the inclusive business models that they have adopted, with clear links to the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). They all have a sense of purpose, and to different degrees embraced social entrepreneurship. 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 Awards will be presented at the World Investment Forum, in Geneva, Switzerland, on 25 October 2018.