ASEAN Promotes Women Entrepreneurs’ Empowerment

Bangkok – A dialogue on reducing gender disparities in entrepreneurship and enterprise development was held yesterday in Bangkok between the ASEAN SME Working Group (SMEWG) and the US-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs plus other stakeholders. 

Data show that gender disparities in access to economic opportunities have persisted across ASEAN and elsewhere in the world.  Such disparities have created formidable challenges to the start up, development and internationalization of women-owned businesses. Thus women own disproportionately fewer firms and those firms that they own are often smaller-scale and are in the informal sector at the bottom of the enterprise pyramid.  Once in, businesswomen often face more limited access to finance than men. Such gender disparities result in untapped economic potential and missed development opportunities. 

The Regional Policy Dialogue on Empowering Women Entrepreneurs to Advance ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Development brought together the ASEAN SMEWG, ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) members, social enterprises and private-sector stakeholders at the national and regional levels, and representatives from several international organisations.  Participants shared good practices, success stories and lessons learned in fostering women entrepreneurship and enterprises. 

Participants also provided recommendations on how to incorporate gender mainstreaming to enhance women’s entrepreneurship and enterprise for SMEWG’s consideration in framing the ASEAN SME Strategic Vision and Action Plan (2016-2025) and its Implementation Roadmap for 2016-2020.

Jointly organised by the Business Alliance and the SMEWG, the event was attended by some 80 participants, including members of the AWEN and many other women business owners. Among the Business Alliance corporate partners taking an active part in the dialogue were eBay Inc., Hewlett Packard, MasterCard, Procter & Gamble, and Qualcomm.