On November 19, we mark Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a day spearheaded by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization to celebrate and support women in business worldwide.
Across the globe, women participate in paid economic activities less than men. The gender gap in labor force participation is around 14 percent in the median OECD country, 26 percent in the median middle-income country, and 13 percent in the median low-income country. When women do participate, they often work in lower-paying jobs and sectors and have less access to social safety nets. This is worsened by the COVID-19 crisis, which has disproportionate economic and social consequences on women and girls because of financial exclusion, the gender digital divide, a greater burden of unpaid care work, and other gender-based inequalities. At the same time, it is estimated that closing the gender gap in the workforce would add 28 trillion USD to the global GDP, and that’s only counting the monetary gains, not the human rights and other benefits.
We cannot afford not to invest in women and girls. We must work together to support and remove barriers to women’s economic recovery and empowerment, and entrepreneurship in its various forms is a powerful catalyst to make this a reality. Entrepreneurship can generate jobs for women and their peers and help them tackle the challenges faced by their communities. And as much as the COVID-19 crisis is a threat for women entrepreneurs, it has also provided an opportunity to do things differently, including creating a greater acceptance of remote working models, accelerating digitalization, and increasing the visibility of alternative forms of leadership. Women are important agents of change, and harnessing the potential of women entrepreneurs will be crucial for the sustainable and inclusive recovery of economies and societies from the crisis.
As a co-leader of the UN system’s socio-economic response, UNDP has prioritized gender-responsive social protection and women’s economic recovery in 46 countries, including through supporting women-led micro, small, and medium enterprises, digital solutions, and cooperative development. For instance, in Nepal, UNDP, together with ILO, IOM, and UNESCO, is working with women informal workers, migrants, and women’s cooperatives and assisting through cash transfers, livelihoods support, and reskilling. UNDP is also mobilizing governments to enact gender-responsive policies, including those that support women entrepreneurs. Our new COVID-19 Global Gender Tracker shows that 130 countries and territories have adopted 503 fiscal and economic measures to help businesses weather the crisis. Still, only 10 percent of these measures aim to strengthen women’s economic security by channeling resources to female-dominated sectors.