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‘Women-owned businesses Have Been Extremely Resilient During Pandemic’: CEO, WEConnect International

Elizabeth Vazquez a world leader in women’s economic empowerment, spoke to Ashish Sinha on women entrepreneurs, their challenges and more.

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The pandemic changed our world and work was no exception. Interestingly Women-owned businesses pulled their weight, thanks to their tenacity. WEConnect International, which works with 10,000 women in businesses based in over a hundred and twenty-five countries, saw some interesting trends and challenges that women owned businesses face. CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International, a world leader in women’s economic empowerment and global supplier diversity and inclusion. Elizabeth Vazquez a world leader in women’s economic empowerment, spoke to Ashish Sinha on women entrepreneurs, their challenges and more.

Excerpts:


What have been the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on overall business?

I think we're all trying to figure that out. Right? But I would say that in general businesses are experiencing a range of human resource and operational challenges including difficulties with meeting basic operational expenses because a lot of them feel cut off from their customers and from their suppliers.

How did women owned businesses do?

So, our corporate partners found that women-owned businesses were extremely resilient. In fact, they found, these businesses are very agile. And they know that it's not in spite of them being women-owned businesses, but because they are women-owned businesses. They have their hand on the pulse of the needs of communities of employees and a family is and so they're really uniquely positioned to help these large buyers understand local opportunities. They really want to do more not less with the women.

What were your observations about women-owned businesses in India?

There are some educated entrepreneurial women around the country, but they tend to go into the low cost to entry businesses. They tend to stay in the informal sector, and it makes it difficult for buyers to find this talent and that the solutions these women can offer to them. And so, there's a lot of I work that needs to be done on both the supply side and on the demand side.

We do need more women in India to start and grow businesses in the technology space where there are so many more opportunities. There are a lot of opportunities in manufacturing.

What is your India plans and what kind of numbers and growth do you see from India?

India continues to be a really important strategic market for our member buyers and the women business owners and our partners in India and around the world. It's such an important growing economy and because of the level of Education, the technology infrastructure, and the role in geopolitics, there are a lot of good reasons why we want to continue to in identifying these women in businesses developing their capacity to compete for business and connecting them to large buyers.

What are the challenges for WeConnect in India?

So, in general women business centers in India face a range of challenges from the process of incorporation, hiring people, access to Capital, structured business networks. Sometimes there is ingrained gender bias and as a result, more than 90 percent of the businesses run by women in India are still micro-enterprises and seventy-nine percent of them are self-financed. And so that's a huge challenge for scale. They need to have corporate clients or larger clients. If they want to gain better access to finance or capital. So, there's a significant need for local education both on the supply side and the demand side for the business case for buying from and investing in women-owned businesses and India.

The current economic sentiment is that of caution or wait and watch. Do you see an opportunity for women entrepreneurs in that scenario?

I definitely do not agree with a wait and watch strategy. I think now is the time to be extremely pro-active. I think this current situation is a crisis that demands we change the way we lead this change because of the role women have played in India as leaders in business in their families and their communities. I think frankly.


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WEConnect International Elizabeth Vazquez