Investing in women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is one of the best ways to simultaneously achieve economic, financial, and social impact. Research shows that women-owned SMEs are significant accelerators of economic growth. Because women are also responsible for nearly two-thirds of worldwide consumer spending, leading corporations are seeking competitive advantage by including more women vendors in their global value chains to better serve and understand their customers. Moreover, women tend to spend more of their earned income than men on the health and education of their families, yielding significant social impact and bolstering future gains in productivity and inclusive growth.
Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) leverages public-private partnerships to increase women’s economic participation and address three key barriers women confront when starting and growing SMEs: access to training and networks, access to markets, and access to finance. Through these collaborations, the United States and its partners will:
1) Provide training and mentoring to women entrepreneurs throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, with a focus on business growth;
2) Support market access initiatives in countries throughout the region; and
3) Launch and expand initiatives to facilitate women-owned SMEs’ access to credit and other financial services.
WEAmericas connects women to economic growth and business opportunities and brings together the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to achieve mutually beneficial goals: inclusive economic growth, increased financial returns and social impact, formalization of informal sector work, and enhanced competitiveness for firms and economies.
WEAmericas builds on commitments made during the 2011 APEC Leaders Summit and in the San Francisco Declaration—which countries throughout the Americas supported, including Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and the United States—and ongoing work under Pathways to Prosperity. Both initiatives address barriers to women’s economic participation.
In addition to the U.S. government, WEAmericas founding partners include Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, ExxonMobil Foundation, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Kauffman FastTrac, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Vital Voices, Walmart Foundation, and WEConnect International.
The partners have developed the following initial collaborations, which focus on concrete actions in three crucial areas: access to training and networks, access to finance, and access to markets.
1) Access to Training and Networks
Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Department of State are partnering to provide training to women entrepreneurs at the SME level throughout the region. Women entrepreneurs will participate in a Department of State-sponsored exchange program, where they will connect with their American counterparts and have the opportunity to create lasting networks and business relationships. As part of the program, Kauffman FastTrac will host workshops on strategic planning and entrepreneurial trends. With Walmart support, Vital Voices will provide follow-on leadership and enterprise development training to build the capacity of women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and succeed as leaders in the business community and in wider society.
Through Secretary Clinton’s International Fund for Women and Girls, the Walmart Foundation will also provide $1.5 million for the WEAmericas Small Grants Initiative to support broader economic empowerment and development for women-owned businesses in the region, particularly for indigenous and rural women.
As part of their 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship Partnership, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and the U.S. Department of State will partner to bring cohorts of women from Latin America to the United States. This partnership provides women from around the world with scholarships for intensive business and management training at Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Cherie Blair Foundation for Women will offer women from the U.S. Department of State’s entrepreneurship programs an opportunity to participate in its Mentoring Women in Business initiative. The initiative combines mentoring with technology to provide cross-border support to women entrepreneurs. Using a specially developed algorithm, women entrepreneurs from the region will be matched with mentors through an e-mentoring platform.
2) Access to Finance
The IDB’s Structured and Corporate Finance Department (SCF) and Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) are partnering to launch women entrepreneurshipBanking (weB), an initiative to work with financial intermediaries in the region to help them establish lending models that support growth in women’s businesses. The MIF, through its Line of Activity for Promoting Small Enterprise Financing, will provide up to $5 million in technical assistance grants to transfer knowledge of effective lending models for women-owned SMEs and to train loan officers and credit managers in these products and services. SCF, through its financial markets strategy’s beyondBanking program, will offer up to $50 million in loans, risk-sharing facilities, and partial credit guarantees. By doing so, SCF will share some of the risk of testing these models and generate opportunities for more inclusive finance with these institutions. This unique combination of capital and technical assistance will maximize the success of forward-looking financial institutions’ portfolio development across the entire supply chain to ensure that women-owned SMEs have equal access to finance.
3) Access to Markets
ExxonMobil Foundation and the U.S. Department of State will provide grants to WEConnect International to support the registration and certification of women-owned businesses in Mexico. By identifying and certifying these businesses and connecting them with potential buyers of their goods and services, the program aims to reach at least 900 women business owners in Mexico and procurement executives from at least ten large corporations doing business in Mexico.
IDB, Walmart, and WEConnect International will also partner to enhance the capacity of women-owned businesses in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru to gain access to new markets and increase their economic productivity as employers and community leaders. The project will focus on the outreach, education, and training required to ensure more women-owned businesses have the knowledge and networks needed to compete in global value chains. Large corporations that source internationally, such as Walmart, will be integral in the sharing of best practices and business opportunities.
About the Partners:
· Cherie Blair Foundation for Women provides women with the skills, technology, networks, and access to finance they need to become successful small and growing business owners so they can contribute to their economies and have a stronger voice in their societies.
· ExxonMobil Foundation has helped women in developing countries fulfill their economic potential and drive economic and social change in their communities. Since 2005, their investments of more than $53 million have enabled community-based and global partners to implement programs directly benefiting tens of thousands of women.
· Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women is a five-year initiative to provide a business and management education to underserved female entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets. The program is designed to drive greater shared economic growth, leading to stronger healthcare, education, and greater prosperity in the communities where it operates.
· IDB supports efforts by Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries to reduce poverty and inequality. Established in 1959, it is the largest source of development financing for LAC, with a strong commitment to achieve measurable results, increased integrity, transparency, and accountability.
· Kauffman FastTrac is the leading provider of learning curricula that equip aspiring and existing entrepreneurs with the business skills, insights, tools, resources, and network to start and grow successful businesses. Kauffman FastTrac was created by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the largest foundation in the world devoted to entrepreneurship.
· Thunderbird School of Global Management equips students and leaders with the business skills and global mindset needed to create sustainable prosperity worldwide. The Thunderbird for Good initiative has provided 50,000 Latin American women with entrepreneurship training to help drive economic development, fight poverty, and improve living conditions in their communities.
· Vital Voices is a global NGO that provides training and mentoring to innovative women leaders, enhancing their ability to transform lives and advance peace and prosperity in their communities.
· Walmart unveiled its Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative last fall, which uses the company’s size and scale to empower women across its supply chain. Over five years, the company will source $20 billion from women-owned businesses in the United States and double sourcing from women suppliers internationally. In addition, Walmart will train thousands of women on farms and in factories in employment and life skills to enhance their participation in global value chains.
· WEConnect International is a corporate led non-profit that identifies, educates, and certifies women's business enterprises and introduces them to corporate members representing $700 billion in annual spend.