Women-owned businesses in Bangladesh need better access to markets and corporate value chains to boost the country's inclusive growth and to create more jobs, the World Bank Group said at the Corporate Connect 2020 Conference & Business Fair on Sunday.
Built on the success of a just completed pilot project, the World Bank Group together with WEConnect International on the day launched a project that is expected to help 1,200 women-owned businesses connect with potential large local and multinational corporate buyers, said a statement.
Supported by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the project would also help enterprises access value chains and expand their business.
The conference was attended by policymakers and business leaders where best practices to diversify value chains were discussed. A business fair was also organised for women entrepreneurs to build networks and access corporate procurement opportunities.
Ministry of Commerce and the World Bank Group in collaboration with WEConnect International and with the support of We-Fi organised the conference and the fair.
"The conference provides a platform for the government, private sector, and institutional partners to support women entrepreneurs to succeed in value chains and make their mark on the local and global economy," commerce minister Tipu Munshi told the conference.
"We hope this will encourage more companies to buy from women-owned businesses that provide innovative homegrown products and services."
The earlier pilot project provided capacity building training to over 150 women entrepreneurs and facilitated linkages with large corporations through various business networking opportunities and nearly 90 per cent of the beneficiaries reported improvements in their businesses.
The project also led to the creation of the country's first Supplier Diversity Advisory Committee.
"In Bangladesh, only 5 per cent of formal micro, small and medium-sized companies are owned by women," said Wendy Werner, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.
"As an investor in emerging markets, IFC strongly believes that to enable companies and economies to grow, we must reduce the gaps between women and men in the private sector."
"The development of supply chain strategies is critical to the success of businesses, but women owned firms are often overlooked as key participants in those chains," said Caren Grown, Senior Director, Gender, World Bank Group.
"Over the next three years, the project will help create a database of Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs in order to increase their participation in corporate value chains. The more that can be done to connect women-owned businesses with corporate buyers, the greater will be the benefit to both women entrepreneurs and to Bangladesh."
Globally, women-owned small and medium businesses earn less than one per cent of the money spent by large corporations and governments on suppliers.
Connecting women entrepreneurs to corporate buyers helps to diversify value chains while delivering equitable, broad-based economic growth.
"WEConnect International is excited to bring its expertise in gender-inclusive sourcing to help buyers gain a competitive edge and women-owned businesses reach a broader market with their goods and services," said Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International.
"We call on other buyers and women business owners to join the movement for supplier diversity as we work to achieve gender equality."