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Enterprising Women Conference 2020 and Challenges in Gender Issues

Enterprising Women Conference 2020 and Challenges in Gender Issues

Enterprising Women Conference 2020

Monica Smiley is the Publisher and CEO of Enterprising Women Magazine. Enterprising Women Magazine is being published in the last 20 years. Monica has been organizing the Enterprising Women of the Year Awards Celebration & Conference every year since the last 18 years. 2020 was their 20 th year of the Magazine and I guess it was the first year ever that the conference was held digitally. 

I was a nominee and a proud award winner in the Enterprising Women 2020 Conference.

Monica Smiley
Monica Smiley

Enterprising Women of the Year Awards Celebration & Conference

Enterprising Women of the Year Awards Celebration & Conference gathered some of the world’s most dynamic top women entrepreneurs and leaders to share their knowledge, learn trending business concepts. It was a pleasure, even digitally, to see so many successful business women one after another.

Nomination for 2021

This year’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award nominations have been extended to Jan. 31, 2021. If any of my readers, who is the leader of her enterprise, is interested to be nominated for 2021, I will investigate it if I can nominate her.

The Hall of Fame Global Powerhouse Panel of the Conference

The Hall of Fame Global Powerhouse Panel in the Enterprising Women Conference was moderated by Denise Evans, IBM’s Vice President for Women and Diverse B2B Marketing. There were a number of important women speaking in the panel.

Irene Natividad
Irene Natividad

Firstly, I would like to mention my dear friend Irene Natividad, the Founder and President of Global Summit of Women. She has been touching the lives of many women across the world for 30 years and if you have followers in social media, she has real followers in the real world, and they come from all over the world. If you attend a conference, you can reconfirm to yourself that the conference is important if Irene is also there.

Elisabeth Vazquez
Elisabeth Vazquez

Another friend at the panel was Elisabeth Vazquez, Co-Founder of WEConnect International and the Hall of Fame Inductee of the Enterprising Women 2020 and a W20 Delegate for the US. She is diligently and successfully connecting women owned enterprises to the larger corporations all around the world.

Secondly, Mei Xu Founder and CEO of Chesapeake Bay Candle and Maria Sobrino, Founder and CEO of Lulu’s Foods, Inc. were the other two panelist whom I had the chance to listen to for the first time in this conference.

And lastly, but surely not the least on the panel was Ambassador Melanne Verveer. She was the Ambassador At Large for Women Issues during the term of President Obama and earlier she worked for President Clinton and Hillary Clinton. She is currently the Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University and she was adding powerfully to the powerhouse aspect of the panel at the Enterprising Women Conference.

My notes from Ambassador Malenne Veveer’s speech

It is always an inspiration to listen to Ambassador Verveer and I took a few notes from the Ambassador’s speech. Below are my notes. In the italic I wrote my comments.

Malenne Veveer
Malenne Veveer

“Governments have enormous power to support women entrepreneurs. Sometimes when I would travel globally and meet a high-level politician or a leader of a country and he was aware of my portfolio on women’s issues, he would say, “so nice to meet you I don’t have much time, I have a nice young lady on my staff who is happy to talk to you”. On these occasions, I would respond that I wanted to talk about how he can grow his country’s economy. Mentioning economic growth changes the conversation back to focus on the importance of women’s issues, including women and economy. It is important to show that women grow economies, inclusive prosperity and create jobs. Entrepreneurial women certainly create jobs.”

Access to capital

“On access to capital there is a huge gap that needs to be closed. Capital is a critical need of women entrepreneurs the world over. There are important platforms like the G20, IFC and the World Bank – organizations that provide loan guarantees and address collateral. These organizations already know how critical it is to close the tremendous gap that women entrepreneurs confront.”

“The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (WE-FI), was introduced at the G20, a couple years ago” –actually at the W20 Summit in Germany in 2017 with the initiation of Chancellor Merkel and organization of the World Bank – “Training and capital are the significant components of WE-FI.” Ambassador Verveer told the story about “meeting a woman entrepreneur who was trying to establish a tech business but needed credit. She was turned down by bank after bank and she said, “You know the best ideas die in the “parking lots” of the banks”, as so many usually cannot get the loans for their projects. Access to capital is still one of the biggest challenges’ women have.

Women in trade

“Trade policies rarely focus on women. When you hear about trade you rarely hear mention of women in trade and women entrepreneurs. Trade policies need be more inclusive of women entrepreneurs. Women need to access to information about trade procedures, and qualifying opportunities”. Ambassador Verveer provided an example of women farmers in an African country. “They were engaged in growing the trees that produce shea nuts. One of the farmers got an opportunity for training in business and learned more about a special trade opportunity. Today she and many of her coworkers own a thriving spa products business that is based on shea butter. She was able to take advantage of trade policies and the business has markets in Japan and the US as a result of her learning about all aspects of her business, including trade opportunities. So, women entrepreneurs need to be factor in and have the chance to benefit from trade.”

Getting women into the agenda

“For many years, there was no place on the agenda for the role of women and the economy at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation platform – the multilateral organization that encompasses 21 economies of the Asia Pacific region. In 2011 APEC leaders adopted an important step forward. They passed a motion to focus on addressing the obstacles that women entrepreneurs confront in accessing credit, markets, training, and networks. APEC finally acknowledged the important role women play in the economies of the member states.”

I should also mention that I was a proud speaker at the APEC meeting in Vietnam about links in women entrepreneurship and the sustainability of a country’s economy.

Another important aspect to tap is government’s convening power. Ambassador Verveer mentioned that “when she was in government, an initiative to “Invest in the Future” brought women entrepreneurs together regionally in different parts of the world. She recalled that when she was in Bosnia recently women who had attended the conference years earlier told her they gained so much from increasing their knowledge and making key contacts. Government partnerships with the private sector are also crucial for women entrepreneurs. By utilizing the tools, the government has and collaborating with the private sector, it can support women owned businesses. Public private partnerships to grow women’s economic participation should continue to be catalyzed.


“COVID has put a brighter spotlight on the need for greater attention to childcare and elderly care. For too many governments and the private sector this has been viewed as a marginal issue. Today there is greater awareness of the importance of childcare to economic prosperity.

The childcare issue is now rising to a place of greater importance that it deserves –due to Covid 19.”

This remark reminded me of the time when we were trying to establish the W20 for the G20. During the time of the establishment of the W20 in 2015 we decided to have a shortlist of universally accepted gender issues to discuss on the agenda of the very first W20 Summit. We already had a list and childcare was in our list, among others. We also wanted a consensus and we organized consultation meetings. I had to spend serious time convincing experts who were suggesting to me to delete the childcare and elderly care issues from the list of gender issues.

They claimed this is not a gender issue, further this is how it needs to be. Women do perform these duties without remuneration, – but we cannot accept this as a fact. An important sector in the economy becomes a lost work for the overall economy. When we delete childcare or elderly care form the list of gender issues, we appear to have accepted working without remuneration on behalf of all women. Further, it represents an important obstacle in front for women who wish to work. Defending this, at that time, was a hurdle. It is great to hear that it is rising in the agenda from Ambassador Verveer.

The need and the women owned businesses

“So many of our institutions that need to be responsive are unfortunately not as responsive as they should be given the importance of these issues. Given their capacity, power, and resources, we should work together to get a greater response. What Elizabeth Vazquez does through WEConnect is vital. She is making the connection between companies that want to source from women-owned businesses and the women-owned businesses that could qualify from this opportunity. Women need organizations like WEConnect — interveners who can provide critical assistance — a collective rescue. Collective action creates the kind of power that an individual can procure alone. Elizabeth Vasquez pointed out that because of COVID, there will be all kinds of needs created that women entrepreneurs can respond too. We will need small businesses in significant ways. They will need be more innovative and inventive. We need all these small and medium women owned businesses to come back from the economic downturn caused by COVID. Women usually create their businesses from addressing a “need”. There will be many needs created by COVID. At the same time governments in their response to COVID need to apply a gender lens to new programs and policies to support women entrepreneurs.”

“Women always created their businesses out of need they saw that had to be addressed. For this reason, we need all women led businesses. Small and medium size businesses have suffered the greatest losses during the pandemic. Women have always created their business from a need they saw that had to be addressed. Women entrepreneurs and their businesses will be vital to post-COVID recovery. They need to be invested in by governments and others to ensure that they can play the vital role they are best able to play.”


“Covid represents a she-cession or women’s recession. Women have suffered the greatest economic losses in the pandemic; women – run business that have taken the hit. We are in a “she-cession” not a recession, not a depression, but a “she-cession” where women are the biggest losers in the Covid economy. For their sake and the sake of their businesses they will need to have targeted support to recover.”

This economic crisis has been named she-session, since not only women owned businesses but also women’s employment is hit harder during Covid-19. In the employment world, majority of women who were hit were working in the service and informal sectors of the developing world.

The seed and the need for a leading coordinator

“A lot of what has been created comes from “a seed”. A few people got together, and they started to talk about “what can we do about it?” Maybe we need some corporate leadership, some governmental support and surely representatives of the civil society organizations or the associations. These meetings have always created solutions. One of us needs to be creative enough to start with a leading coordinator that can come up with a list of recommendations for solutions. This method has always been creating solutions. One of our biggest problems is the lack of coordination –unfortunately.”

When Melanne Verveer said the list of recommendations to be developed by a leading “coordinator” for solutions, I again recalled the time of gathering the list for the very first W20 Communiqué. If you listen to everybody, there would not be a list. And you may even start to believe that everything is in order in the gender issues. You need to hold on to your list dearly and defend your ideas to the very end. At that time, I did not know that I was attempting to do the job of a “coordinator” and that we were a seed, but I was working diligently and trying to get something out of my appointment as the first Chair of the W20.

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