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International agreement on definitions on women’s entrepreneurship to support women’s economic empowerment (en)

17 diciembre 2020
ITC Noticias

Geneva/Stockholm - The International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Swedish Institute for Standards (SIS) have concluded an International Standards Organization (ISO) International Workshop Agreement (IWA) on global definitions related to women's entrepreneurship. The aim of the IWA is to facilitate policymaking, data collection and access to capacity building, finance, and markets for women's economic empowerment.

ITC's SheTrades Initiative and SIS concluded a series of multistakeholder consultations, funded by the Government of Sweden, on terminology and general guidance related to women's entrepreneurship on 16 December 2020. The result will be published in the document ISO/IWA 34 Women's entrepreneurship - Terminology and general guidance.

"The ISO/IWA-34 is a major milestone in the history of women's entrepreneurial development. ITC looks forward to working with our institutional partners and stakeholders everywhere to adopt the definitions and guidelines outlined in the Agreement", said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director at ITC.

"The inclusive and transparent process we followed has delivered a robust International Workshop Agreement on women's entrepreneurship that reflects the views and needs of diverse stakeholders from all regions of the world," remarked Vanessa Erogbogbo, Chair of the ISO/IWA 34 and Chief of Sustainable and Inclusive Value Chains section at ITC.

"This is the first ISO deliverable on Women's entrepreneurship and also the first digital IWA process, which enabled a broader participation than would have been possible otherwise. There are several ideas for additional work, so hopefully this is just the beginning,"added Maria Gustafsson, Secretary of the ISO/IWA 34 and project manager at SIS.

"This International Workshop Agreement is the culmination of a robust, consultative process with various stakeholders and it will guide ISO as its gender standards continue to grow," said ISO Secretary-General Sergio Mujica. "I would like to thank our partners, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Swedish Institute for Standards (SIS), ISO member for the country, as well as the hundreds of experts that participated in the IWA for their incredible hard work. Our journey together underscores the collaborative spirit and quick development of the first ISO deliverable directly related to SDG 5 - the first of many."

The ISO/IWA 34 will offer definitions, criteria, and guidelines on the following terms:

  • Women-owned businesses;
  • Women-led businesses;
  • Women-led cooperatives; and
  • Women-led informal enterprises

The final IWA will be submitted to ISO for publication. The document is expected to be published by early March 2021.

ITC's SheTrades Initiative will develop a series of capacity building initiatives in collaboration with ISO and institutions targeting women's entrepreneurial development to support stakeholders with adopting and operationalizing IWA definitions and terminology.


For decades, the landscape of definitions about women's entrepreneurship has remained fragmented, with no clear and universally agreed-upon definition or definitions.

Governments, corporations and international organizations within and across countries have been implementing capacity building, market access and research initiatives on women's economic empowerment with different definitions and criteria for "women-owned businesses."

The lack of harmonization of definitions and terminologies has produced challenges across the women entrepreneurial ecosystem, such as the lack of internationally comparable gender-disaggregated data and multiple, sometimes inconsistent, criteria for women in business.

Facts about the process

An International Workshop Agreement is an ISO document produced through one or more open workshop meeting(s) that involve the direct participation of market players and stakeholders in its development. The process is open to all, and the discussions are carried out in consensus with a neutral leadership.

ITC SheTrades Initiative and SIS conducted 16 informal consultations and two official IWA workshops from July to December 2020.

More than 350 experts from 77 countries registered for the process, and 342 stakeholders from 49 countries participated in the informal consultations.

Notes for the editor

About the Swedish Institute for Standards - The Swedish Institute for Standards, SIS, is the Swedish member of the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) and the European standardisation organisation CEN.

To learn more about SIS, visit

About ITC's SheTrades Initiative - The SheTrades Initiative aims to connect three million women to market. The initiative brings together stakeholders worldwide to work on seven actions to address trade barriers and create more significant opportunities for women entrepreneurs. For more information, please visit

About ITC - The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

For more information, visit

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Contact Person for ITC SheTrades Initiative

Judith Fessehaie

Programme Officer

SheTrades Initiative

International Trade Centre

jfessehaie [at] (jfessehaie[at]intracen[dot]org)

Contact Person for the Swedish Institute for Standards

Maria Gustafsson

Project Manager

Department of Standardisation

Swedish Institute for Standards

maria.gustafsson [at] (maria[dot]gustafsson[at]sis[dot]se)

For more information about the SheTrades Initiative:


Facebook: ITC SheTrades