Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, observed annually on November 19th, is a global initiative spearheaded by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO). The group celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2023. The theme for this year, encapsulated by the hashtag #WEDO, highlights the pivotal role women entrepreneurs play in effecting positive change. The movement focuses on celebrating, supporting, and empowering women and girls globally. By championing women entrepreneurs, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day aspires to foster a more equitable, inclusive, and prosperous future, emphasizing gender equity and equality, financial inclusion, and the potential of entrepreneurship to transcend barriers.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is not only a celebration, but also a reflection of the values outlined in the U.S. Strategy on Global Women’s Economic Security. This strategic framework envisions a world where all women and girls can contribute to and reap the rewards of global economic growth fully, meaningfully, and equally. By bridging the global gap in women’s participation in the workforce, it is estimated that an additional $5.3 trillion could be added to the global GDP, bolstering economic security and prosperity for all. Additionally, insights from the World Bank’s “Women, Business, and the Law 2023” report underscore the significance of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day in advocating for gender equality, as it reveals that only 14 economies have achieved equal representation of women in terms of legal economic standing.
This vision extends to a world where all individuals enjoy equitable access to meaningful employment, essential social and labor safeguards, professional networks, financial resources and digital technologies, entrepreneurial pursuits, and management and leadership positions, and attain economic stability. The U.S. Strategy on Global Women’s Economic Security aims to promote “equal access to education, innovation, quality jobs, and decent work,” including entrepreneurial opportunities, for women and girls worldwide.
The U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council (USPWC), a public-private partnership between the U.S. State Department and Texas A&M University committed to enhancing women’s economic participation in Pakistan, works in pursuit of this vision. USPWC joined forces with Paklaunch, a Pakistani organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship and investment, to hold a startup accelerator and competition aimed at fostering inclusive economic growth in Pakistan, with an emphasis on supporting women’s entrepreneurship. Over 1,000 start-ups led by women vied for the limited 50 slots, with 15 ultimately selected as finalists. The finalists traveled to Islamabad for a final pitch event, where the top three founders were selected to be showcased through the U.S. State Department and Paklaunch platforms. All 15 finalists were awarded a $5,000 credit for Amazon Web Services and will receive one-on-one mentorship from Paklaunch and Amazon Web Services, positioning them for success with potential investors and clients. This accelerator, in line with this year’s theme, ‘Women Entrepreneurs DO Make a Difference’ (#WEDO), is a step towards realizing the transformative impact of women entrepreneurs in Pakistan’s economic landscape.
First Prize winner Arooba Tayab, founder of TheEPO.com, a website that streamlines B2B purchasing, highlighted the impact of the USPWC-Paklaunch partnership, emphasizing the importance of the “women-centric” mentorship programs that the initiative provides. Ms. Tayab noted that “finding mentors and support [as a woman entrepreneur] is tricky,” a task which is made considerably more manageable with the guidance and support offered through this partnership.
First Runner-Up Aiman Khan, founder of SLOSH AI Solutions – a company that improves diagnostic efficiency for radiologists – echoed this sentiment, noting that as a “female-led startup, [you] need a lot of support.” Ms. Khan continued, “You need moral support, you need working support, and you need financial support.”
Second Runners-Up Romana Rafi and Tanvir Maqsood, co-founders of – a platform that teaches school-aged students about computer science and information technology – shed light on the critical need for support in the entrepreneurial journey. She underscored the significant obstacles that women in business encounter, noting that “to prove yourself as a woman is a great challenge.” Mentorship, moral support, and financial backing are essential. Ms. Rafi and Ms. Maqsood’s perspectives highlight the broader systemic hurdles that women-led startups confront. All three winners underscore the crucial role that comprehensive support systems, such as that of the USPWC-Paklaunch partnership, play in fostering women’s entrepreneurship.
About the Author: Grace Parcover is a Virtual Student Federal Service Intern for the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.