Women prove worthy entrepreneurs

Women prove worthy entrepreneurs

Gender diversity is seen as being at the heart of recovery

From left are Lyn Lewis-Smith, chief executive of BESydney (Australia), Mr Mann, Ms Thiru, Mr Sargeant and Ms Natividad.
From left are Lyn Lewis-Smith, chief executive of BESydney (Australia), Mr Mann, Ms Thiru, Mr Sargeant and Ms Natividad.

Women have proved to be resilient entrepreneurs with the ability to adapt to challenges as they gain more seats on corporate boards, according to executives of leading organisations.

They shared their views in a session entitled "Global and regional megatrends" yesterday at the 2022 Global Summit of Women (GSW), held at the Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld.

Savy entrepreneurs

David Mann, chief economist for Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa at Mastercard, a payment service provider, said despite a myriad of challenges, women's employment rose in 14 economies, based on the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2021.

The index looks into women's advancement outcomes, access to knowledge and financial services, and supporting entrepreneurial factors.

Women surpassed men in terms of entrepreneurial activity in 10 economies overall -- a testament to the adaptability that has been the defining factor for women's success in business since long before the latest crisis, he said.

The US, New Zealand and Canada are ranked the top three nations for women entrepreneurs overall.

Common factors that support the share of women business owners in these economies are a high rate of women's enrolment in tertiary education; easy and fair access to finance; strong government small business programmes; high representation of women in leadership roles; and positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship.

The Philippines ranks first for the third consecutive year for women's advancement outcomes, with significant progress also shown by the economies of Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Russia and Thailand, Mr Mann said.

He also highlighted the new business opportunities afforded by the online channel in the wake of the pandemic.

Unusual disruptions

Justin Sargeant, president of NielsenIQ Asia Pacific (Singapore), a data analytics operator, said businesses and consumers have faced unprecedented disruptions brought about by the Russia-Ukraine war, the rising cost of materials, delays in the supply chain, labour shortages, rising interest rates, the ongoing pandemic situation and current and future trade sanctions.

Other challenges include a shift in the retail business landscape, tech adoption, environmental changes and an altering of customers' values and attitudes, he said.

"We see economic contractions, with a downgrade of the GDP outlook and surging inflation," Mr Sargeant said.

A Nielsen survey found women felt a financial impact from the pandemic more acutely than men, as four out of 10 women globally only have enough money to afford the basics and 82% of women in Asia-Pacific are watching their spending.

Women spend more on groceries, utilities, education, child care and financial services, while pivoting priorities towards wellness.

Some 23% of women surveyed said they prefer hybrid work, compared with 13% before the pandemic.

Space economy

The space economy has come under the spotlight recently with 4,472 active satellites now in orbit.

In the first quarter of 2021, investment by venture capitalists in this field saw a 95% increase year-on-year, said Mani Thiru, head of space and satellite solutions for Amazon Web Services (Australia), a cloud infrastructure provider.

She said the world is entering an exciting and daring new space age as the space industry is rapidly growing, transforming into a US$1 trillion market.

Satellites launched into orbit will triple over the next decade, said Ms Thiru.

Having a space economy will support government assistance in rapid fire detection and disaster response, satellite-supported agriculture, national security, earth observation as well as smart cities and digital twins, she said.

"We can support new-generation space builders, including startups led by women," said Ms Thiru.

Representation rising

Irene Natividad, president of the GSW, said gender diversity is at the heart of recovery.

Some 15% of Fortune 500 chief executives are now women, up from 8% in 2021.

As of January 2022, 20.2% of firms' board of directors in Fortune Global 200 companies were females, up from 10.4% in 2004.

In term of regions, Europe took the lead in terms of the proportion of women who are board directors with 36.9% in 2021 versus 9.1% in 2004, while Asia-Pacific made significant progress reaching 10.7% in 2021 versus 0.9% in 2004.

France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and Germany are among the leading countries that saw a hike in the percentage of women on the boards of companies, she said.

There are many factors that could drive quotas for female representation, including legislation, Ms Natividad said. Some countries mandate quotas for females on the boards of listed companies.

Supporting women on boards will never happen unless there are concerted efforts at a national level, she said.

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