Global inroads for women: why we're championing the Women and Trade programme

Tue 7 Mar 2017
Posted by: IOE&IT News

woman in a classroom holding a globe


We’re celebrating International Women’s Day (8th March) by championing the dynamic Women and Trade programme, which creates more opportunities for women in trade.

Run by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and UN development agency, the International Trade Centre (ITC), it boosts the participation of female entrepreneurs and producers in global value chains – helping them gain greater economic benefits from international trade.

The programme recognises the major role women play in the global economy – reinforced by the fact that they own close to 10 million of the world’s SMEs – which in turn generate approximately 50% of global GDP and account for almost 80% of jobs globally.

Although research by management consultancy McKinsey predicts advancing women’s equality could add $28 trillion to global GDP – representing a new US and China - an ITC survey suggests that women are only in charge of one in five exporting companies.

The results prompted ITC to launch the ‘1 Million Women Entrepreneurs’ initiative in December 2015 which aims to connect a million women entrepreneurs to markets by 2020 - growing the global economy through their contribution to trade.

ITC’s SheTrades app supports ‘1 Million Women Entrepreneurs’ by enabling women to share information about their companies, increase visibility and expand networks – helping corporations include more female business owners in their supply chains.

However a WTO public forum last September heard that there is still much work to be done in increasing women’s economic empowerment. Illiteracy, poor education standards and a lack of access to information and finances are among the obstacles.

ITC executive director, Arancha Gonzalez, suggested legal reforms and altering attitudes as engines for change, while technological advances are regarded as potentially revolutionary, since they can allow women to sell their goods and services without being seen.

She said: “There is an army of women that are simply waiting to be part of the economy. Gender issues are not exclusively women’s issues, they are societal issues.”

The Institute has always promoted the importance of education in boosting personal outcomes and growing the knowledge bases of SMEs -  offering training courses for entrepreneurs in emerging markets - while our wide range of qualifications continue to enhance the professionalism of international trade.

IOE&IT Director General, Lesley Batchelor OBE – whose accolades include the highly coveted ‘First Women of Business Services’ title at the 11th annual Real Business First Women Awards, said: “The more people who are supported into international trade, the more robust, varied and profitable it will be - bringing huge benefits to regional, national and global economies.

“Coordinated efforts to boost the representation of women in the sector around the world are the way forward and instrumental in increasing awareness of the challenges that many women face.”


On International Women's Day we are especially reminded to #BeBoldForChange – to help forge a better working world - a more gender inclusive world.

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