Women who rock international trade session overview
Our recent session as part of the Aid for Trade Global Review emphasized the importance of women entrepreneurs in international trade. The title of the session "Women who rock the international trade" had its origins in a social media campaign that coincided with the international day of women to celebrate the contribution of women to the world of international trade. The campaign particularly focussed on the unsung heroes, the women who daily make a contribution, but out of the spotlight. The focus of the discussion was how women can capitalise on their huge potential to contribute to the world economy. Discussion centred around gender equality in trade, sustainable initiatives to encourage women to trade globally, and the constraints faced by women. The participants also discussed the need to integrate gender aspect into trade policy. The session was organised by GTPA and EIF.
The full summary of the discussion can be read below:
The session had six panellists, five women and one man. The panel discussion was moderated by Ms Collins Rex, Director of the GTPA. The discussion provided
views on the potentials of women entrepreneurs, constraints faced by them, and donor support and assistance required for them to succeed in international
trade. The panel discussed capacity building and capability building, having knowledge versus knowing how to make use of the knowledge, the importance
of mentoring, the role of eCommerce, amongst other issues.
Frances Lisson, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Australia to the WTO, stressed the importance of women in trade. She also emphasized the importance of assisting women to progress in trade and praised the support rendered by EIF to women-run SMEs in LDCs. She noted that in the very complex world of international trade, it is important for women to have predictability and economic stability. She also highlighted the importance of eCommerce and digital trade in the empowerment of women, as well as the role played by Australia in advancing the cause of women in business through their various support programmes in developing countries.
Anoush der Boghossian, Trade and Gender Focal Point, World Trade Organization, discussed the importance of having gender policy integrated into trade policy. She reiterated women's important role in the world economy by pointing out that half of world’s population are women. She stressed that women remain an untapped economic force in most LDCs. She did, however, also mention that necessity has raised the profile of women in LDCs where, for example, work force shortage in many LDCS mainly due to migration to urban areas and abroad, has led to women now being increasingly absorbed into the economy; she cited the example of the mining sector of Zambia.
She highlighted that excluding women from the economy would result in losing out on job creation, on diversification of the economy, innovation (women tend to be 5% more innovative than men), development and poverty reduction (90% of income earned by women is reinvested in the family, community, and business). She highlighted that investing in women is a risk-free venture.
On the issue of policy, Anoush reported that of the 111 TPRs reviewed in last four years, 70% of the policies are gender responsive, and 12% of LDCs have a gender aspect in their trade policies.
Mona Shrestha Adhikari, Development Consultant, World Trade Organization, discussed some of the constraints face by women when connecting to global trade. She noted that lack of opportunity and resources are the main constraints in LDCs, emphasizing the importance of support from donor agencies and women support institutions. She categorised the constraints faced by women as the “4Cs”:, Capacity, Connections, Clarity, and Creativity. She noted that women entrepreneurs face numerous NTMs which discourage them from connecting to global trade. She underscored the importance of changing the mindset of the people regarding woman's capability to be successful in business.
Lisa McAuley, CEO, Global Trade Professionals Alliance, emphasized the importance of having sustainable initiatives for long-term growth of women-led businesses. She further discussed the need to encourage women to lead in the fields underpinning international trade, such as finance, trade policy, trade law and customs. She reemphasized the importance of capacity building and having a strong support system in an ecosystem of trade. She also said that it is important for women to celebrate their success and asked everyone to shine a light on women leaders.
Jim Redden, Institute for International Trade, University of Adelaide, emphasized the importance of gender equity for the survival of world economic growth and he expressed his belief in equal partnership and a joint commitment to gender equity and social justice. He talked about the capacity building workshops in which he’s been involved in Asia, the Pacific and Africa. He also raised the challenges of looking at gender equality through the lens of social, religious and culture mores, and he reported on the strategies employed to deal with these issues.
Ms Hang Tran, Coordinator, EIF, discussed the importance of the education of women. She stressed that women needed confidence-building, a strong mentor support system, and good role models. She believes that many of the support needed could come from women’s businesses associations and that this support would go long way towards women taking the risks needed to integrate them into the formal trading sector. She cited examples of successful stories of women entrepreneurs from Burkina Faso who has been assisted by EIF.
She stressed that women are born entrepreneurs, but education, capacity building and support to adapt to changes, would make them great formal business operators. She also raised the issue of eCommerce and its role in women’s empowerment.
Q & A with session attendees raised the need to make trade less stressful for women, the need for capacity and capability building, and the importance of support networks among women. There was general consensus that mentorship and growing a global ecosystem were crucial to women succeeding in international trade. An environment where women can grow and focus on strategic business thinking, while balancing work and family, was agreed to be ideal.