The Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator (WEA), a leading driver for increased women’s economic participation, joined the Generation Equality Forum in Paris June 30 to July 2 through the “Drivers of Change” Program. Twenty-six years after the Beijing Declaration, the Generation Equality Forum, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, is the “most critical moment in a generation to invest in gender equality and accelerate momentum for women’s safety, leadership and economic opportunity.” Fifty thousand people virtually engaged in the Forum, which gathered 1,000 commitment-makers. The Forum recorded $40 billion of investments for gender equality. Investments will go to a 5-year plan to act for equal across seven areas of action.
On July 2, the Accelerator hosted a panel titled “Building a Transformative Strategy for Gender-Responsive Procurement”. This panel aimed to create awareness of the disproportionately complex and interconnected barriers on women’s entrepreneurship. It also intended to promote gender-responsive procurement strategies. Globally, one in three businesses are owned by women. Even so, women win only one percent of the procurement spend of governments and large corporations. Speakers shared insights and concrete advice substantiated by their own journey on how to implement inclusive procurement strategies.
Champions of women’s entrepreneurship
Launched in 2019, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator is a multi-partner initiative. Its goal is to inspire, educate and empower women entrepreneurs around the world. The mission of the Accelerator is to eliminate barriers for women entrepreneurs through four Pathways to Empowerment. These Pathways are Education, Funding, Advocacy and Participation. There are no qualifying barriers to participate. Mary Kay Inc. incepted this global initiative. It is a strategic collaboration developed in consultation with five United Nations agencies.
“We believe that gender-responsive procurement can make an enormous impact which accelerates the inclusion of women-owned businesses throughout the supply chain,” said Julia Simon, Chief Legal & Diversity Officer at Mary Kay Inc. “The Accelerator encourages the public and private sectors to make inclusive procurement a priority and drive the systemic change that women need. Supporting women entrepreneurs is critical for sustainable growth.”
Fostering economic prosperity
Simon served as a panelist during Gender Equality Forum’s Gender-Responsive Procurement discussion. Panelists also included Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International and Jamila Belabidi, Purchases Director, Global Women Economic Empowerment & Global Innovation, Procter & Gamble. Sonia Dridi, journalist & Washington DC correspondent for France 24 and Europe 1, moderated the session.
“It’s a $93 trillion global economy, but women continue to be invisible as suppliers of products and services in our global value chains,” said Vazquez. “This massive market failure must be corrected with urgency so that more women can contribute to and benefit from inclusive economic prosperity and job creation in support of SDG5.”
“At P&G, our focus on gender equality is foundational and integrated into our business, as such, we are committed to spending $10 billion with women-owned and women-led businesses by 2025,” said Jamila Belabidi, Purchases Director, Global Women’s Economic Empowerment & Global Innovation at Procter & Gamble.
WEA also joined four of the Generation Equality Action Coalitions through policy, programmatic and advocacy commitments: Economic Justice and Rights; Feminist Action for Climate Justice; Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality; and Feminist Movements and Leadership. The Accelerator also committed to empower 5 million women by the end of 2030. It will achieve this by alleviating the main economic and social roadblocks faced by women entrepreneurs.
Taking steps towards gender equality
WEA’s participation in the Forum is the latest step towards raising awareness of women’s equality post COVID:
Expanding women’s rights and opportunities
- On March 16, 2021, Deborah Gibbins, Mary Kay’s Chief Operations Officer, joined the UN Global Compact Target Gender Equality meeting on behalf of the Accelerator. Gibbins highlighted data freshly released by the World Bank revealing that on average across the world, women have three quarters of the legal rights of men. She challenged companies to take a stand against legal discrimination and advocate for reform to close the gaps so that women can achieve their full potential. The event brought together over 5,000 people from the business sector, the United Nations, member states and civil society organizations from over 100 countries. Seventy-five percent of the participants represent the private sector.
- On March 24, 2021, on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65), the Women’s Empowerment Accelerator hosted a panel titled: “Women Leading Economic Recovery Through Entrepreneurship,” with five UN agency partners. The collective highlighted the need for public-private sector partnerships to help shape an enabling ecosystem for women entrepreneurs.
Women are the solution
- On June 15-16, 2021, at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit, Gibbins spoke at the “Women in Sustainability: Innovating in a Man’s World” main stage session. While there, she advocated for women entrepreneurs as the role models needed by the economy and the society. She also emphasized the critical mission of the Accelerator. “Women entrepreneurship will play a key role in the successful pandemic recovery. This is why the mission of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator is so timely. And, this is why women entrepreneurs need a framework of this magnitude,” said Gibbins. The annual Summit convened virtually more than 25,000 leaders from business, government, the UN and civil society. Participants took stock of the state of progress. They also drove collective action towards alleviating climate crisis, global pandemic, economic disparities and social inequalities.
About the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator
The Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator is a multi-partner initiative that aims to inspire, educate and empower women entrepreneurs around the world. The mission of the Accelerator is to eliminate barriers for women entrepreneurs around the world through Four Pathways to Empowerment: Education, Funding, Advocacy and Participation. With no qualifying barriers to participate, the global initiative incepted by Mary Kay Inc. is a strategic collaboration developed in consultation with five United Nations agencies: UN Women, International Labour Organization (ILO), International Trade Centre (ITC), UN Global Compact (UNGC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Accelerator aims to economically empower 5 million women by the end of 2030. Learn more at https://www.we-accelerate.com/.