Critical mass for a critical message: empower women, power procurement.
It has taken several centuries for laws to change in ways that support women's equal right to lead countries and corporations--to the benefit of the global economy. The positive correlation between gender equality and the level of competitiveness, GDP per capita and a country's Human Development Index is an oft-quoted finding of the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report. This should be a compelling enough reason for leaders to want to tackle the most egregious areas of inequality, such as women's lack of access to markets, and related factors such as finance and skills building. The rewards can be huge: within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) alone, as profiled in this issue, an estimated US$ 42 billion to US$ 46 billion could be added to the GDP of the 21 member economies annually.
All governments, corporations and institutions--including non-government organizations--buy goods and services, from office stationery to cleaning services. Organizations need to be asking: what proportions of these expenditures are directed to women-owned companies?
Spending is typically funnelled through procurement. Government procurement is a key element in the GDP of many developing countries. And corporate procurement is at the core of the global economy: Fortune 500 companies alone spend in excess of US$ 700 billion each year on procured goods and services. Approximately 1% of this goes to women-owned businesses, according to WEConnect International. This is not because women vendors don't exist; it's an issue of process. Lack of knowledge about procurement processes, including how and where tenders are advertised and how to respond, has inhibited women's access to procurement markets.
ITC is working with partners to address this gap.
International Trade Forum readers are encouraged to get involved in this issue by joining the ITC Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors at www.intracen.org/ womenandtrade. As a buyer, seller or institution working to build the capacity to trade, members commit to, inter alia:
* Sourcing competitive products and services from women vendors
* Sharing knowledge on policies and practices to increase sourcing from women vendors
* Supporting, initiating or improving efforts to integrate women vendors into value chains.
Platform members are the first to receive the application form for the annual Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum--the 2011 meeting is profiled in this edition of International Trade Forum. As a further encouragement to governments, ITC organized the inaugural Government Procurement Roundtable on Sourcing from Women Vendors in Geneva during the December WTO Ministerial, a meeting placing a strong emphasis on how to get women business owners into the bidding process.
Programme Manager, Women and Trade