Women in the UNECE region have the highest labour market participation in the world, but they lag behind men in setting up and running their own businesses. Gender gaps are even more pronounced in high-growth sectors and innovative-based enterprises despite women’s outnumbering men in tertiary education in many countries of the UNECE region. Overcoming the gender gaps in entrepreneurship in the diverse UNECE region is essential to sustainable job creation and development, especially in a time of growing uncertainties in the international environment and teetering national economies These were some of the main findings of the Third Regional Forum for Women Entrepreneurs in the UNECE region held from 14-15 November 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Forum brought together policymakers, female and male entrepreneurs and academics, as well as representatives of international organizations, regional development organizations and other innovation practitioners. They discussed good practices and policies for promoting women’s entrepreneurship development and narrowing the gap between the scopes of women’s and men’s entrepreneurial activities in the UNECE region.
“We, in the UNECE, attach highest priority to women’s entrepreneurship development as an important avenue for economic empowerment of women and achievement of gender equality in all realms of our life. Promoting women’s economic independence and facilitating their success as entrepreneurs is a smart investment with positive and economic returns” was underscored in the welcome address by United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNECE Executive Secretary Sven Alkalaj.
The global financial and economic crisis has impacted heavily all UNECE member states and exacerbated gender disparities, including those in entrepreneurship activities across and within countries. In particular, gender gaps between women and men entrepreneurs in rural and urban areas have widened in Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus.
The Forum put particular emphasis on the increased role of women entrepreneurs in the development of the UNECE region in the last decade. Participants exchanged good practices and lessons learnt on how to overcome remaining barriers to women entrepreneurs in various areas. Access to finance and supportive institutions, regulations and business procedures, access to education, providing knowledge and skills, building networks and a social environment supportive to successful businesses were among the issues addressed. Building partnerships between women’s business associations and public organizations, or between private and public companies owned by male and female entrepreneurs was seen as a pathway to closing gender gaps by many speakers. Such collaboration could also have an international dimension or link partners from different countries and sub-regions in the UNECE region.
Mobilizing resources to build partnerships in setting up and expanding innovative-based enterprises was another focus of the discussions. Participants explored major factors contributing to building a successful and sustainable innovative eco-system, conducive to innovation-based entrepreneurship. The participants emphasized the role of well-performing R&D and education systems, adequate funding for start-ups, support from the Government at central and regional levels, as well as mentoring schemes introducing scientists and inventors into active entrepreneurship. Practical experience showed that women could be a rich source of new ideas and entrepreneurial solutions in many areas. Sometimes women are more inclined to take risks and develop their enterprises than men. Participants recommended share the region’s experience in supporting innovative women entrepreneurs with other regions.
The Forum also included the presentations of country experiences on the promotion of women entrepreneurship development through policies, strategies and programmes in Azerbaijan, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine as well as from various agencies and institutions in the EU.
The Forum was organized by UNECE in cooperation with the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
For more information please visit: www.unece.org/gender
Ms. Malinka Koparanova
Fax: (+41 22) 917 1698