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    Integrating Women in the Global Economy


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2003

    It makes sense to bring women into the economic mainstream...

    • Women are service providers, farmers, manufacturers and artisans, trading domestically and internationally.
    • Women-owned firms are growing in number, creating employment and consuming business goods and services.
    • Women entrepreneurs tend to reinvest in their communities, making them good development partners.

    ...and much more can be done.

    • Among women-owned businesses, few are exporters.
    • At seminars to build export skills and networks, women are consistently a small minority.
    • Relatively few women occupy high-level national trade development positions.
    • Many women work in the informal sector or in other economically precarious positions.

    Some things look different from a businesswoman's perspective...

    • Different business goals based on different life experiences and values.
    • Barriers related to finance, land ownership and integration in business networks.
    • Cultural issues about roles of women in the family, business and society.

    ...and taking these into account will lead to solutions with impact.

    Supporting Women in Trade


    • Greater participation of women in international trade, through new trade development programmes or expansion of existing ones.

    Starting points

    • Finance
      Move beyond microcredit. Investigate how to prepare women for  financing, and how financial institutions can understand and capitalize on this growing market. Explore venture capital opportunities.

    • Training
      Business management training, skills for service providers and mentoring programmes are most frequently recommended by women active in international trade. Training in standards, export development, marketing and networking also rate highly. Promote businesswomen's participation in export training seminars.

    • Information
      Provide access to business intelligence and trade support services. Conduct needs assessments of women-owned export businesses.

    • Networking
      Develop linkages with public and private sector trade support agencies at all levels. Include women in trade missions. Encourage women to join mainstream associations such as chambers of commerce. Conduct membership drives for professional associations. Link with associations in other countries that help businesswomen build referral networks. Use the Internet to create virtual networks that highlight best practices for women entrepreneurs. Organize events for women-owned firms to meet locally-based purchasers in embassies, international organizations and multinationals. Develop databases of women entrepreneurs.

    • Visibility
      Document success stories and publicize them. Feature successful women exporters in existing television programmes, radio broadcasts or newspaper columns that focus on trade. Encourage role models to visit schools, conferences and trade fairs regularly. Develop credible awards programmes.

    • Technology
      Use technology for international business development. Pool resources to share access; use technology to reach out to rural areas.

    • Social support
      Evaluate gender-specific needs for support, from health clinics to maternity leave and childcare.

    Areas to focus on

    • Services
      Women open businesses predominantly in the services sector.

    • Informal sector
    • Women are a majority in the informal sector. Target programmes that help women in the informal economy become formal exporters.

    • Textiles and clothing, food processing, handicrafts
      These sectors have a high percentage of women workers.