Trailblazers Summit, Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum 2015

1 September 2015
ITC News
Opening statement delivered by ITC Executive Director Arancha González on 1 September, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Minister Eleonora Menicucci,
Mr Barioni Neto,
Ladies and Gentleman,

Good morning, and welcome to this year’s Trailblazers Summit on the on-going revolution in sourcing from businesses owned and run by women.

Let me thank Minister Menicucci for her leadership in ensuring women have the place they deserve in society and in the economy.

Let me also thank David Barioni Neto and his team at Apex-Brasil for co-hosting this event as well as the Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum which kicks off tomorrow here in São Paulo.

Thank you as well to our other partners, the United Nations Global Compact, UN Women, WEConnect International, the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, Vital Voices Global Partnership, Quantum Leaps, Pacto Global Rede Brasileria and ONU Mulheres.

In three weeks, the international community is set to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, the Post-2015 Development Agenda, at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Reducing gender inequality will be a critical part of this new agenda. We are here today to begin the journey moving from commitments and intentions, to measurable impact, results oriented and time-based implementation of policy and programmes to facilitate women’s inclusion, access and control of their piece of the global economy. The time has come.

After the Minister’s Keynote, we will look at best practices in how the public and private sectors have paved the path to market for women-owned businesses. Over the past months, a Call to Action has received input from many of you here, and other key organisations from around the globe from Brazil to Australia, Kenya to Turkey, the US to South Africa and Finland. The result is a robust, actionable set of goals that are ambitious YET achievable. The Trailblazers Summit Call to Action is laser focused on 8 pillars: Data collection, analysis and dissemination; Trade policy; Public procurement; Corporate procurement; Certification; Supply side constraints; Financial services and Ownership rights.

This afternoon we will launch this five-year Call to Action on growing the global economy through changing the systemic barriers to access and by bringing one million women-owned businesses to markets by 2020.

We will hear pledges from the organisations you represent to create targets to promote and expand sourcing from women-owned enterprises. We anticipate pledges that range from tacking supply side barriers, to data collection and analysis. We also look forward to announcements that address the low rate of participation of women in public procurement markets, and pledges that use the disruptive power of technology to support the Call to Action becoming a reality in the next five years.

But before we go further, it’s worth stepping back to remind ourselves why all of us – women, men, and children – benefit from greater economic opportunities for women.
No country can realise its full potential while leaving half its population on the margins of full economic participation.

The International Labour Organization estimates that 865 million women around the world could be contributing more robustly to their countries’ economies were they allowed to, or trained to. The International Monetary Fund reckons that the gender gap in labour force participation and entrepreneurship reduces per capita incomes by some 15% percent.

If we can close this gap, by bringing women more fully into the economic mainstream, it would be the equivalent of adding a new China or India to the global economy. This is an extraordinary opportunity. An unexploited opportunity. An historic opportunity.
Realising the full potential of this so-called ‘third billion’, by which I mean women, should be a central goal for policymakers. In fact, given current fears about weak growth and secular stagnation, we can’t afford not to. This is the work of the 21st century. And we want the next five years to be a game changer.

Greater economic empowerment for women creates enduring knock-on effects that a gift for generations. Women invest more of their income in their families’ education and health than men do. Literate fathers often have illiterate children. Literate mothers never do. Studies have found that in developing countries as in developed ones, when a greater share of household income is controlled by women, spending patterns change in ways that benefit children. And these healthier, better educated children are our future.

Trade – specifically, the market opportunities it represents – is a potentially critical driver of women’s economic empowerment. This will only be the case, of course, if women are able to connect to international markets as entrepreneurs, employees, producers, and consumers.

SMEs that export tend to earn more, pay more, employ more people and be more productive than firms that only operate domestically. And of course this is also true for women-owned SMEs. Indeed, it might even be more so: evidence from the United States suggests that the exporter premium – the pay premium at exporting firms over non-exporters – is higher for women-owned businesses than for those owned by men. Women’s ownership matters: male-owned SMEs tend to have very few women in senior roles. For SMEs owned by women, it’s the opposite.

Despite considerable rewards, women-owned businesses face considerable obstacles, from less ready access and control of land, capital, and information resources, to outdated laws restricting women’s economic opportunities. There are more than a dozen countries where husbands can object to their wives working, and prevent them from accepting jobs. Cultural expectations about caring work, child-rearing and household duties, together with social policy choices on childcare and maternity leave, weigh disproportionately on women entrepreneurs and employees.

There is a lot that must be done and can be done to help women-owned businesses thrive. At ITC, some of our work in this area focuses on integrating women entrepreneurs into corporate supply chains, facilitating public and private policies that are enabling, building capacity, and sometimes simply making the connection between women and buyers as we will do over the next two days at the Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum. Another important aspect of our work is in helping to move the needle for women-owned companies to win a bigger share, from their current 1 or 2%, of the multi-trillion dollar government procurement market. This too is the work of the 21st century.

Let us not only celebrate the work we have done, but let us imagine the world we can live in if we work and pull together. Let us not look at the 2% share of the government procurement market and dream about 4%; let us imagine 20% , let us imagine 30%, let us imagine 50% and innovate and find new ways of working together to arrive at parity. Let us change the rules that do not work and shift the paradigm.

Let us reset the clock and begin this morning in the 21st century and create the century where women’s participation is equal, and women’s innovations are welcomed.

Our Keynote speaker and best practices panellists this morning will bring a wide range of perspectives to bear on how best to pave a smooth, fast, efficient path to market for women-owned businesses bringing them from the 19th century to the 21st. Later we will have the privilege to moderate what I am sure will be a thought-provoking exchange, that will set the stage for discussions on how to implement and make operational the Call to Action and continue to galvanise commitments from all of us in this room on our shared goal of greater participation of women in the global economy.

I’d like now to give the floor to David Barioni Neto.