Women-owned businesses represent 33% of the world’s private businesses. That number should be higher when you consider that women-owned businesses are one of the most underutilized drivers of innovation and job growth in both developed and emerging markets. These businesses are particularly challenged when it comes to accessing opportunities in global trade.
Technology can help level the playing field for women-owned businesses, according to Eroshan Alagaretnam, South Asia regional director, WEConnect International. “Technology is arguably the biggest enabler and equalizer—besides capital and capacity training—for driving innovation and growing beyond borders.”
Simplifying access to over $3 trillion in annual purchasing power
The mission of WEConnect International is to drive money into the hands of women-owned businesses by helping them compete in the global marketplace. The organization identifies, educates, registers, and certifies women business enterprises that are at least 51% owned, managed, and controlled by women suppliers in over 135 countries.
WEConnect International works with over 180 multinational member-buying organizations with over $3 trillion in combined annual purchasing power and a commitment to sourcing more products and services from women-owned businesses. Today, WEConnect International makes it easy for these member buyers to access an online database of over 16,000 registered or certified women-owned businesses that can compete on total value.
But it wasn’t always so.
Expanding global reach with unified registration and search experiences
WEConnect International and its member-buyers believe that trade is a powerful tool for achieving gender equality. Top of mind is that trade is one area where governments, businesses, and international organizations can collectively advance an agenda of Diversity & Inclusion which can help unleash half of the world’s population potential. However, the reality is that even though these member-buyers manage $3 trillion in purchasing power, today, less than 1% is spent on women-owned businesses.
Both WEConnect and its member-buyers seek to change this situation yet found it difficult to make the connections on the organization’s technology legacy platform. On one hand, member-buyers found it difficult to search for qualified women-own suppliers. Likewise, women-owned businesses found it cumbersome to register and apply for certification. Furthermore, WEConnect International’s small, global staff also had difficulty registering and certifying businesses that were not in English as the system operated in only one language.
With funding from USAID to solve these challenges, WEConnect International worked with SAP to develop a new multi-lingual solution called WECommunity. This technology is based on SAP Ariba Supplier Lifecycle and Performance and is used to manage the registration function including a mobile-centric option, and SAP Business Technology Platform for corporate member login and search.
95% growth in qualified and registered women-owned businesses
By making it easier to bring motivated, large corporate, multilateral, and government buyers together with women-owned business suppliers around the world, WEConnect International is driving inclusive economic growth and creating a path toward gender equality.
Since the initial launch of WECommunity three years ago, a clear pattern has developed demonstrating the benefits of greater access to global markets for suppliers. This has resulted in a 95% growth in registered women-owned businesses and also growth in the following areas:
86 new member-buyers, a 91% growth rate
5,000 thousand unique searches for women-owned suppliers
7,900 new women-business supplier registrations
24,000 new jobs from revenue growth / 6000 suppliers (2021)
12 new countries, a 28% increase in global reach
In one of several, inspirational videos on WEConnect International’s website in honor of International Women’s Month 2023, Kumud Sharma, a supplier in South Asia, reflects, “Entrepreneurship has the power to create shared wealth for everyone. By creating innovative products and services, entrepreneurs can generate new jobs, build stronger communities, and improve quality of life for people around the world.”
Achieving buyers’ goals for global supplier diversity and inclusion
As a society, we often underestimate the influence that gender has on our world views. Acknowledging these differences is the first step towards building a more inclusive and understanding world.
In her inspirational talk on creating wealth together, Fiona Blades, a supplier in Europe shares, “Supplier diversity and inclusion can be very helpful to get a foot into a company. Sometimes I try to pull strings by using WEConnect International’s name.”
Catia Stoyan, CEO, Stoyan Energy Solar, Latin America is committed to sustainability in the global concept of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing. “We are confident that we can make an even greater impact on the communities and industries we serve. It is a commitment inspired by the purpose of our company,” she explains, “to bring clean and renewable energy to the four corners of the world. And it’s all made possible with WEConnect International, which provides access to global markets and enables women business owners to unlock their potential and achieve success.”
WEConnect International is a winner in the 2023 SAP Innovation Awards Program. Download the pitch deck to see how the non-profit makes it easy to identify, certify, and train women-owned businesses around the world and simple for member-buyer organizations to find and select qualified suppliers.