March is a time to celebrate the achievements of women and recognize the challenges they still face in breaking through barriers. One area where women have made significant progress is in international business and trade. In this article, we will explore the role of women in these fields and how they are breaking barriers and driving change.
The Progress of Women in International Business and Trade
While women have made significant progress in the fields of international business and trade, the journey to equality and representation is ongoing. In 2020, women made up 32% of senior management roles globally, creeping up from 29% in 2015. However, with only 19.4% of companies having a female CEO, women are still underrepresented in certain industries and regions. Their progress in business and trade is shaped by several factors, including access to education and finance, changes in cultural attitudes, and the implementation of policies that promote gender equality.
Policies that create a more supportive environment for women in business and trade, provide flexible work arrangements that make it easier for women to balance work and family responsibilities, and that address pay equity are key. For example, in 2020, the Norwegian government passed a law requiring companies with more than 50 employees to report their gender pay gap and take measures to reduce it. Norway also offers generous parental leave policies, with both parents entitled to a combined 49 weeks of leave at 100% pay or 59 weeks at 80% pay. In 2018, the Canadian government introduced new pay equity legislation for federal employees and has generous parental leave policies, with both parents entitled to a combined 18 months of leave at 55% pay or 12 months at 70% pay.
Nevertheless, women continue to face significant challenges. They remain underrepresented in top leadership positions in many companies, there is a significant gender pay gap in many industries, and greater challenges with accessing finance. These issues must be addressed to ensure that women have equal opportunities and representation.
Breaking Barriers: How Women are Driving Change
Despite the obstacles, women have demonstrated their ability to lead in international trade and industry. According to a Gusto survey, in 2019, 28% of new business owners were women. By 2020, that number jumped to 49%. In addition, businesses with women in leadership roles typically have more inclusive and varied cultures, which results in better performance and greater employee happiness. Women are also driving change by breaking down the very barriers they face, creating new opportunities for themselves.
Across business and trade, women are driving change by expanding their participation in global value chains and promoting the development of trade policies that support women’s economic empowerment. For example, women’s business organizations are advocating for gender-inclusive trade policies that recognize and address the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs.
Gender-inclusive trade policies recognize and address the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, such as access to finance, capacity-building, and access to markets. Some examples of gender-inclusive trade policies include:
- Gender-sensitive trade agreements: Trade agreements that incorporate gender perspectives and promote gender equality in trade, such as ensuring that women have equal access to markets and opportunities.
- Gender-disaggregated data collection: Collecting and analyzing gender-disaggregated data on trade and investment to better understand the impact of trade policies on women and identify areas for improvement.
- Gender-inclusive procurement policies: Procurement policies that recognize and address the challenges faced by women-owned businesses by setting targets for the inclusion of women-owned businesses in procurement processes.
Gender-inclusive trade policies are crucial to ensuring the economic empowerment and inclusion of women entrepreneurs in the global economy. To address these challenges, various policies have been developed that recognize and address the unique needs of women entrepreneurs.
- The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi): We-Fi is a partnership between 14 governments, eight development banks, and other stakeholders that aims to provide financial and technical assistance to women-owned and women-led SMEs in developing countries.
- The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Gender Equality in Decent Work Toolkit: This toolkit provides guidance for policymakers, employers, and workers on how to promote gender equality and prevent discrimination in the workplace.
- The Canadian Government’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: This policy aims to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in international development by supporting women-led organizations and initiatives, and incorporating gender considerations into all programming and policies.
- The Global Trade Helpdesk: This online platform provides information on trade regulations, market opportunities, and trade statistics, with a focus on supporting women-owned businesses and promoting their participation in international trade.
By implementing gender-inclusive trade policies, we can create new opportunities for women entrepreneurs, promote gender equality and inclusive economic growth, and unlock the full potential of the global economy.
If you are interested in learning more about gender-inclusive trade policies and how they can benefit women entrepreneurs, we invite you to get in touch with our team at DevelopTradeLaw. We can provide guidance on the latest policies, regulations, and best practices in the industry.
I am a seasoned international trade and customs attorney, and policy adviser for various companies and governments with a demonstrated history of successfully developing and implementing sustainable and dynamic trade programs. I am experienced in creating partnerships with various business-support organizations to drive compliance and growth in the international market.