Micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and women-led MSMEs in particular, have been especially vulnerable to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. However, the crisis has also caused a dramatic shift in the business-as-usual approach and paved the way for innovations, green growth, and sustainable development. Women-led MSMEs may be best equipped to take advantage of these opportunities.
MSMEs fill crucial roles in the economy all over the world. Globally, MSMEs account for 90% of business enterprises and a staggering 70% of employment worldwide. While opportunities exist for women entrepreneurs in all sectors of the economy, there are a few that can be considered as particularly well suited for MSMEs. These sectors include services, the circular economy, information technology, and natural resources management.
UNECE’s new report on Women Entrepreneurship in Natural Resource Management: Challenges and Opportunities for the MSME Sector in the post-COVID-19 Socio-economic Recovery highlights the pervasive gender diversity problem in natural resources management. However, certain areas of natural resource management may have low barriers to entry for women. Environmental management, supply-chain management, digital transformation, and other similar sectors have relatively low capital requirements, while relying on technological advancements. Application of UNECE tools such as United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) and the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS) could provide valuable entry points for women.
The report suggests several policy initiatives, including the provision of an enabling business environment, pro-growth tax systems, and labour market flexibility. Empowering women, by helping them develop skills to build confidence to address cultural norms, are essential to higher women participation. A focus on networking and mentoring, affordable childcare and healthcare, and capacity development will be crucial to increasing the participation of women in MSMEs.
The report includes case studies from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which provide a brief summary of key natural resources, Covid-19 impact, opportunities, government- and international-led initiatives, and country-specific recommendations. The study also recommends the creation of a platform for MSMEs, policymakers, and financial institutions to support the resilience of resource supply chains in the UNECE region.
An online training based on the above study was organized on 17 December, focusing on long-term opportunities for women in sustainable natural resources management MSMEs.