New York City Tops New Womenabling Cities Index

A new accounting of the most supportive cities for growth-oriented women entrepreneurs was recently released at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, just ahead of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. The WE Cities Index lists the 25 cities globally that provide the most supportive capital, technology, talent, culture and markets for growth-oriented women, a population they refer to as “high potential women entrepreneurs.” Those cities are:DellWECitieschart

  1. New York City
  2. the San Francisco Bay Area
  3. London
  4. Stockholm
  5. Singapore
  6. Toronto
  7. Washington, DC
  8. Sydney
  9. Paris
  10. Seattle
  11. Munich
  12. Austin
  13. Beijing
  14. Hong Kong
  15. Taipei
  16. Shanghai
  17. Tokyo
  18. Mexico City
  19. São Paulo
  20. Seoul
  21. Milan
  22. Delhi
  23. Johannesburg
  24. Jakarta
  25. Istanbul

For an interactive look at how each of these cities ranks in the five major index areas, visit this web page.

The WE Cities Index follows on the heels of the Global Women Entrepreneurs Scorecard, which was released the prior year. That effort analyzed 21 variables in a five-element framework, and ranked 31 countries around the globe for their supportive policies and programs to help women scale their enterprises. The findings of the country-focused effort (which was supported in part from Womenable) were highlighted in this Womenable blogpost from 2015.

Tops on that list were the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom — home to nine of the 25 top-ranked global cities for women entrepreneurs who are shooting for the stars. Godspeed on your journey, ladies!

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What Do Women Entrepreneurs Need to Grow? A New Initiative Keeps Score

It’s one thing to encourage more women to start their own entrepreneurial ventures, but what are the elements that can ensure their future growth and success? And what countries are doing a good (and not so good) job of providing a “womenabling” environment for growth-oriented women entrepreneurs? These are the questions asked – and answered – in the new Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard, a data-powered diagnostic tool developed by ACG Inc. with support from Dell.

The research team (of which Womenable is a member) considered the elements necessary for supporting growth-oriented, high-impact women entrepreneurs – AND what data are currently available on a regular basis – gathering and combining 21 data variables into an analytical framework comprised of five main elements:

  • Business environment;
  • Gendered access to resources;
  • Women’s leadership and legal rights;
  • A gendered entrepreneurial pipeline; and
  • Potential female entrepreneurial leaders.

DWEN_Global-Scorecard-ResultsThe resulting analysis, conducted among 31 economies that collectively account for 76% of global GDP, finds that the following countries provide the environment most conducive to supporting high-impact women’s entrepreneurship:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. Australia
  4. Sweden
  5. United Kingdom

At the other end of the list are countries that are not so supportive:

  1. Bangladesh
  2. Pakistan
  3. India
  4. Egypt
  5. Tunisia

One important conclusion of the analysis is that even among highly-ranked countries there is much room for improvement, as the scores – calculated on a 0-100 scale – only reach 71 even in the top-ranked U.S.

And what can all of us do to help the cause? Several recommendations for action offered include:

  • Narrow the gender data gap by measuring progress of women entrepreneur-focused initiatives;
  • Prioritize female-owned businesses in public and private supply chains;
  • Promote and empower women in the workplace;
  • Raise the visibility of female role models in business; and
  • Build entrepreneurship skills for girls by investing in STEM education.

Learn more and download the GWEL Scorecard executive report and methodology at THIS WEB PAGE.

Business Support “On Equal Terms” in Sweden? Nära Skjuter Ingen Hare!

After eight excellent years of promoting women’s entrepreneurship in Sweden, the newly-elected government has closed programmatic support in this area (thus highlighting once again that elections do matter).
Swedish flag and people copy
In wrapping up their efforts, however, Tillväxtverket (the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth) has compiled some lessons learned reports. Here, for your enlightenment, are:

Many thanks to fellow womenabler Gunilla Thorstensson for sharing these reports with us. Unfortunately, business promotion “on equal terms” (meaning “one size fits all”) will likely not stand women entrepreneurs in Sweden in good stead going forward. As they say in Sweden, nära skjuter ingen hare!

Perhaps this will spark advocacy and action among women’s business groups there. From adversity can come increased strength and sisterhood.

Mixing Purpose With Passion: Women’s Enterprise in Scotland

Having recently returned from Scotland, I was struck by a new-found energy and optimism. Though the recent independence referendum was defeated, it brought out a renewed national spirit – which certainly carried over in the surge of support for the Scottish National Party in the recent U.K. elections.

wes-logo-colourThis energy surge is also manifest in support for women’s enterprise development in Scotland. Last year, Scotland launched a Framework and Action Plan for Women’s Enterprise, based on feedback from the women’s business community and other stakeholders and containing a series of policy and program recommendations.

What took me over to Scotland was a Think Tank gathering, #WESMovingOn, in which best practices from within and outside Scotland and the U.K. were considered and discussed. The day was kicked off with a thoughtful presentation by futurist Anne Lise Kjaer on a more inclusive view of ‘the good life’ and the drivers of change in the future, incorporating the four P’s of people, planet, purpose and profit.

Then we (“womenablers” from government, the private sector and the third sector, from the U.K., Europe and North America) all rolled up our sleeves and shared our views – from our countries and communities – of what’s working, what lessons we’ve learned, and what recommendations we’d make for Scotland moving forward. I was asked to reflect on some lessons learned from the U.S. perspective, based on the 27 years of progress (and pitfalls) since the “big bang” of women’s enterprise development in the U.S.: the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988. Here’s a brief summary of the ideas that I shared:

  1. Policy is only the starting point. For progress and sustainability attention must be paid on three key levels:
    • In the public sector level, to set such frameworks AND to establish programs based on policies;
    • On the customers/clients of women’s enterprise support: listen to them, then modify programs based on changing needs. This is something we do NOT do nearly enough of in the U.S.; and
    • On intermediary groups, such as implementing partners. This is the all too often forgotten link between policy and customer.
  2. Don’t “fence in” women business owners. By this I mean not isolate them, but don’t limit their growth by setting policy sights too low. U.S. federal support for women’s business centers is a prime example of this; they are hampered by restrictions on what clients they can serve with their federal grant money, which leaves many growth-oriented women business owners underserved;
  3. DATA, DATA, DATA: it’s critically important to measure. In the U.S. government, policy efforts are limited by restrictions on conducting research, so the Center for Women’s Business Research (now defunct) was critically important in 1990’s, as it monitored progress and showcased needs;
  4. Private sector partnerships: Enlightened corporations and financial institutions need women business owners as customers and as suppliers, so they are stakeholders, too.

We also heard from several of WES’ excellent women’s entrepreneurship ambassadors: women business owners who give back by speaking to women and girls about what it’s like to start and grow a business. One of them was Sylvia Douglas of MsMissMrs. You owe it to yourself to CLICK HERE to learn more about her enterprise … and her empowerment pants. (Here’s us posing with some during the Think Tank discussion.)empowermentpants

What’s next for women’s enterprise development in Scotland? I’d say that they will be a leader in the U.K., if not throughout Europe and beyond, for their inclusive, consultative approach, for thinking well outside the box and all along the size continuum, for being inclusive of diversity from the outset, and for bravely stepping out in front and leading the way. Keep an eye out for the report from this think tank event, and keep an eye on Women’s Enterprise Scotland … the Brave!

Grist for the Mill: Supporting Growth-Oriented Women Entrepreneurs

There’s increasing interest in moving beyond supporting the entry of more women into business ownership, toward a greater understanding of what growth-oriented women business owners need to get to the next level in their entrepreneurial journey. There are two new reports that shed some light on this issue.

gristmillFirst, infoDev, a multi-donor program in the World Bank Group, recently published Growing Women-led Enterprises in the Mekong: Testing a Methodology for Accelerating Growth. This report, supported by the government of Finland, pilot tested a series of workshops, peer-to-peer sessions and one-on-one coaching over a six-month period in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam.

Secondly, the World Bank’s Trade and Competitiveness group also just published a policy note entitled, Supporting Growth-Oriented Women Entrepreneurs: A Review of Evidence and Key Challenges, which draws upon and synthesizes existing research from within and outside the Bank.

Each of these reports is well worth reading on their own, but what is perhaps most interesting and relevant is that they draw some similar conclusions:

  • Short-term training with little or no follow-up does not always lead to measurable business growth. This can be a funding challenge for defined-length, externally sponsored projects and speaks of the need for a greater focus on sustainability measures and local partnerships;
  • Established women business owners benefit greatly from peer-to-peer learning. Merely providing networking opportunities for women business owners can reap valuable rewards;
  • Selecting women who are “growth-oriented” can be challenging: mindsets may matter as much as recent performance; and
  • Existing programs are very heterogeneous, with a wide variety of interventions. This reduces the ability to draw conclusions about what works best and share lessons learned.

Adding to this new information is some research conducted by Womenable way back in 2007, Mapping the Missing Middle: Determining the Desire and Dimensions of Second-Stage Women Business Owners, which not only raised the point that not enough policy and programmatic attention was being paid to established women-owned firms that had not yet cracked the million-dollar revenue barrier, but sized this population at between 16% (if defined to include firms with employees or between $100,000 and $1 million in revenues) and fully 91% (if having employees and revenues over $100,000 was not a criterion) of the entire women-owned business population. A short survey was conducted among established women business owners in the United States and found that “missing middle” women business owners:

  • Were indeed mostly growth-oriented – 64% were in search of tools for business growth;
  • Had a much greater appetite for information than the average woman business owner; and
  • Wanted to learn from one another, would prefer just-in-time, experiential learning over classroom-style information, and would value the guidance of a mentor.

We applaud this increased focus on providing “grist for the mill” of business growth – and for the grist provided by these two new reports!

A Womenabling Research Round-up

A number of reports of interest to womenablers have been published recently. Just in case you missed ’em, here is a round-up of what’s caught our attention recently. In alphabetical order by report title, they are:iStock_000015922195Large

mpw_logo2_1000pxAnd, of course, the 16th annual listing from Fortune of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business is out. Check out not only the complete global list, but their separate list of the Most Powerful Women of Europe, the Middle East & Africa.

Woman to Woman: Supporting Women’s Entrepreneurship Through the Power of the Purse

There’s a well-known saying that if you truly wish to support a cause you should “put your money where your mouth is” – meaning not only that talk means little without action to back it up, but that supporting a cause financially beats verbal praise alone.

So it is as well with women’s entrepreneurship: one of the best ways that women-owned firms can be supported is by purchasing their products and services.
pink purse
This pursuit is becoming easier for women-owned purveyors of consumer products through a growing number of online marketplaces focused solely or predominantly on products made by women-owned firms. Perhaps the most well-known is etsy.com, geared toward smaller scale handmade goods, but there are others recently coming online:

  • ananasa.com, an online marketplace based in the Middle East,
  • farandwidecollective.com, a site that sources products from developing economies,
  • pink51.com, which exhorts visitors to “shop with a purpose” – meaning that a portion of all sales are donated to women-focused causes,
  • shop.plumalley.co, sister site of plumalley.co, which invests in women-owned and -led businesses and is based in New York City, and
  • rosiemade.com, which offers goods made by women-owned firms in the USA, and which is meant to remind us of Rosie “We Can Do It” the Riveter.

The biggest potential impact may come through a new initiative spearheaded by Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, in partnership with WEConnect International and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). In 2012 Walmart debuted an online marketplace for women-owned products under the “Empowering Women Together” moniker as a part of their Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative launched in 2011. Now, they are expanding that effort to include a “woman-owned” label on products not only online but in stores. (See this recent Bloomberg Businessweek article for more information.) This could take the Power of the Purse to a whole new level.