March 7, 2023
Co-founder & CEO, Dine Diaspora
Maria Luisa Boyce
Vice President, Global Public Affairs, UPS
Principal Associate, Nathan Associates
More women than ever are starting their own businesses today — and yet, only about one-third of businesses across the globe were owned by women as of 2020, according to World Bank Gender Data. That’s because, despite the surge in new startups founded by women, female entrepreneurs still face certain barriers to growth at higher rates than their male counterparts, including a lack of access to capital and reduced availability of working hours due to pandemic-related challenges like affordable childcare.
Strategic partnerships within the private sector and between businesses and government organizations are the key to helping women overcome these entrepreneurial obstacles. This panel at the 13th Annual International Women’s Day Forum, which featured female corporate leaders and founders, spotlighted the power of partnerships that support women in business.
Supporting Women Entrepreneurs Is a Good Business Decision
According to World Bank Gender Data, the worldwide population is made up of 49.7% women, but only 34% of the world’s businesses are owned by women. To help bridge the gap, investment should be a top priority.
Maria Luisa Boyce, Vice President of Global Public Affairs at UPS, shared investing in women's entrepreneurship was “an easy decision to make,” especially in terms of its commitment to community and growth.
“It’s a good business decision,” she explained. “We decided in 2018 to launch our Women Exports Program to enable women entrepreneurs around the world to enter international trade to learn about it.”
With a three-pronged approach to its international trade and investment program, the UPS Global Public Affairs is investing in women by building training, knowledge, and expertise in their program and keeping a special focus on small businesses as well. Boyce said the program has trained over 107,000 women entrepreneurs to date.
Recognizing Women’s Contributions and Providing Access to Capital Are Key
Nina Oduro, Co-founder and CEO at Dine Diaspora, an agency that connects people and brands to African food culture, said one of the most important approaches her business takes is recognizing women.
“Across the United States and around the world, racism and sexism are entrenched in the food industry,” she explained. “So, we believe that recognition of women's contributions – particularly Black women's contributions – to the food industry is central.”
Oduro also noted Black women tend to not only have access to less startup capital than entrepreneurs of other races but don’t always seek out available sources.
“Black women are not even often seeking out [access to credit] … and when they do, they’re getting denied … [so] Black women tend to go to family, friends, to the communities for the initial startup funds,” Oduro said. “Oftentimes, that makes it hard to grow if there isn’t other investment coming in.”
“What we tend to do is educate the women on those opportunities,” she continued. “[We] bring in those professionals from the bank … [and those] that are seeking to actually work with them, and see the opportunity of how they can grow.”
By Building a Network of Support, Women Entrepreneurs Can Thrive
Linnea Gavrilis, a Principal at EY, emphasized the importance of building a network of support.
“One of the things we’ve found in the programs that we’re running, particularly with the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program … [is that] when you get people together, they are going to link arms and help each other,” Gavrilis shared. “It’s just really inspiring to see that happen.”
At a global business like EY, the company works in different countries with different languages and different cultures, making the opportunity for networking substantial. EY’s entrepreneurial network is 10,000 strong and fosters a safe place for women entrepreneurs to reach out about questions or ideas they may have and get support from like-minded individuals.
“Often people have a great idea, but the actual execution, they just need a little bit of an assist,” Gavrilis continued. “And then, man, you watch them take off.”