A discussion titled ‘Women in Business: Dhaka Roundtable on Strengthening Market Access and Integration into Corporate Value Chains’ was held at Amari Hotel in the city recently.
Senior executives and managers from national and international corporations, women business owners of micro, small and medium enterprises, business associations, NGOs, donor agencies and high-level government officials from the Ministry of Commerce, including Secretary Shubhashish Bose, attended the programme.
“The roundtable brought together private industry leaders and other key stakeholders in a unique event to discuss the untapped potential of women business owners in Bangladesh. Together, we can remove obstacles to market-access opportunity and put more money in the hands of women,” WEConnect International co-founder and CEO Elizabeth Vazquez said.
According to studies, conducted by WEConnect International, women-owned businesses earn less than 1 per cent of all money spent on vendors by large corporations and governments worldwide.
As part of this project, a survey was conducted to identify potential points of market entry for women-owned businesses in Bangladesh, and to find opportunities to connect them to local and global corporate value chains. Key findings from the survey were discussed at the roundtable event as well as recommendations and potential next steps.
According to the preliminary findings, 55 per cent of corporate respondents do not believe that women-owned businesses can competitively provide the highest-priority products and services that are procured locally by corporations. While women-owned businesses are seen as potential suppliers of agricultural products, they are not viewed as competitive for Food and Beverages or Marketing services, activities that are among the strongest areas of competitiveness for women-owned businesses who conduct business with corporations globally.
Nearly 55 per cent of respondents felt that women-owned businesses could improve the quality of their offering in order to do more business with corporations. It is standard practice for a corporate buyer to assess a new supplier’s product quality and fit, but interviews with business owners and the associations indicate that there is more pressure placed on women-owned businesses to prove the quality of their offer.
48 per cent of women-owned businesses emphasised experiencing difficulty in making connections to corporate buyers. During interviews, they noted that establishing networks in the sourcing departments of large corporations is complex and non-transparent.
The recommendation from the roundtable along with results from the survey will inform an upcoming capacity building programmme for women-owned businesses that are poised for growth. The long-term goal is to help local and global corporations identify women-owned businesses that could be competitive and sustainable suppliers and to equip these business owners with the skills they need to succeed.
This roundtable is part of a World Bank Group project funded by the UK Department for International Development - “Strengthening Market Access for Women Business Owners” and is focused on export diversification and gender-related activities. The project builds better connections between women-owned businesses and corporate buyers, provides capacity building training, and helps promote the business case for sourcing from women in Bangladesh.
WEConnect International and LightCastle Partners are the implementing agencies of the programme. WEConnect International is a US-based non-profit organisation that identifies, educates, registers and certifies women's business enterprises based globally that are at least 51 per cent owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women, and then connects them with qualified member buyers. LightCastle Partners is a Bangladesh-based management consultancy which support corporations and governments with market research and advisory services.