JUNE 2019 – Every June, the United Nations celebrates the importance of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) – acknowledging their contributions to the global economy as 90 percent of all firms and accounting for an estimated 50 percent of GDP.
MSMEs are essential actors in economies around the world – particularly in developing countries. These businesses tend to employ vulnerable sectors of the population such as women, youth and those who live in rural areas. MSMEs are recognized as important contributors to the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in providing decent work for all. And it’s crucial we not only support MSMEs, but also that we pave the way for women who own and work for MSMEs.
Supporting women’s entrepreneurship is essential to create jobs, build prosperity and provide opportunity for more people around the world. Small and medium enterprises create 70 percent of jobs in low- and middle-income countries. And, with an anticipated global jobs gap of an estimated 600 million by 2020, this sector has powerful potential to build prosperity through inclusive economic growth and job creation. Women entrepreneurs are critical to closing this massive global jobs gap. Research shows that women entrepreneurs typically anticipate hiring 31 percent more workers than their male counterparts.
Women’s leadership in business goes beyond job creation. Research has found that if women participated in the economy at the same rate as men, it would add up to an additional $28 trillion, or 26 percent, to annual global GDP in 2025. Plus, when women lead businesses, they change perceptions about what women’s roles have traditionally been within their communities and the economy. They challenge adverse social norms and act as positive role models in their community, helping transform attitudes around the value of women’s work and thereby expand women’s economic opportunities.
Despite the potential positive impact of women-led businesses, women still face disproportionate challenges in accessing high quality business skills training and networks to support business growth. To address this challenge, Vital Voices hosts the VV GROW Fellowship, a highly competitive one-year accelerator for women owners of small and medium enterprises. Now in its sixth year, the Fellowship addresses the needs of women owners of small and medium businesses by providing online and in-person business skills training, technical assistance, leadership development and access to networks.
Recently, the 2019 class of VV GROW fellows traveled from 28 countries to the Netherlands to participate in an intensive, three-day in-person training workshop. During this training, the 42 fellows built on the work they had accomplished during the first five months of the Fellowship by focusing on deepening knowledge and skills in strategic planning, networking, marketing and sales, leadership and communications.
VV GROW Fellow Renata Eugenia Moreno de Flamenco traveled from El Salvador to Amsterdam, where she particularly appreciated the storytelling and cross-industry elements of the training, saying “I love the way we are all mixed with one another, all of the tools and resources have so much value for growth.”