BEIJING--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, an international conference, the Women Connect Global Summit, was held online to address the difficulties and challenges faced particularly by women during this unprecedented crisis.
The summit, jointly organized by the China Chamber of International Commerce, DHgate, and Visa and seen as the kickoff for the upcoming Women Connect Entrepreneurship Competition, brought together leading experts from the business circle, government, and international organizations. Sun Xiao, Director General of Department of Multilateral Cooperation of China Chamber of International Commerce, Diane Wang, Founder and Chairperson of DHgate, Maaike Steinebach, General Manager of Visa Hong Kong and Macau, Wang Qing, Programme Officer of Gender and Climate Change of UN Women, Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General of DigitalEurope and other women leaders and entrepreneurs attended the summit. The participants discussed a series of important issues, particularly on how technology can play a more significant role in women’s careers and how public and private sectors can work together to help women navigate this crisis.
Technology as a Means for Women to Gain Access to International Markets
Traditional offline businesses are under serious threat due to lockdowns and social distancing. Sun Xiao pointed a vast digital gap between men and women, with 200 million more men having access to the internet than their counterparts, and COVID-19 has deepened pre-existing inequalities.
To solve the problem, Wang Qing, UN Women’s program officer, said, "technology plays a crucial role in rural women’s empowerment." UN Women launched a project that offers training programs to educate female farmers on agriculture technology, women’s leadership, and entrepreneurship in China.
Wang shared a story of a woman running a family pig farm in China. She learned to set up her profile and post videos of pigs in her farm. Her online business thrived and even customers from other provinces would order from her. Despite the COVID-19, she managed to sell 56 pigs and earned over 50 thousand yuan RMB in this March. Thanks to the project, participants of the program, armed with their newly-obtained skills and knowledge, have in general been less affected by the pandemic at a time when lockdowns and social-distancing rules have forced countless offline businesses to shut down.
Technology can empower women at risk and help them remove barriers for accessing digitization capabilities. Diane Wang, founder and chairperson, agreed, “More women have a deeper understanding of the importance of digital transformation now.” However, the lack of access to the relevant skills and knowledge is the real problem. There must be a call to immediate action to change the situation.
Public and Private Sectors Taking Actions to Enhance Digital Transformation
Facing the deepening of the digital gender divide, both the public and private sectors call on making joint efforts to bridge it. “We must share our knowledge, our best practices, our capacities, and our possible resources in digital transformation with women and prepare them for the new normal,” Diane Wang added. “The removal of barriers needs to be government, private sector, and civil society-led,” Michelle Curry, Founder, and CEO of TOQQA Global, chimed in saying.
Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl pointed out that 52% of the workforce before the outbreak would need to be reskilled in the next five years, a high target requiring close cooperation between the public and the private sectors. She also revealed the great importance of teaching SMEs and women in business how to use online tools to foster resilience.
Su Cheng Harris Simpson, the founder and CEO of SCHSAsia, said that “SCHSAsia has initiated programs to help women cultivate themselves and programs that encourage companies to offer women opportunities to grow in leadership roles.”
As an executive member of BRICS WBA, Phindile Spies said that the efforts of Shared Interest Investments extend to non-financial aspects, provide a quota in the procurement of corporates to be allocated to women-led businesses, specifically upskill women doing business in rural communities.
Maaike Steinebach as well mentioned a women empowerment program, “She’s Next” - launched by Visa earlier. The program aims to bring together female founders and female-led businesses to advance women in access to education, research, and networking. And another tailor-made program entitled Beijing 2022 and Women Program supports women-led MSMEs to uplift their internal capabilities and external resources to better benefit from opportunities brought by Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Advice for Women from Female Leaders and Entrepreneurs
60% of women have thought of starting their businesses but never took the first step to fear failure. Bonnie Chiu, managing director of Social Investment Consultancy, shared the advice “Embracing all risks and failure will unlock the potential.”
The COVID-19 outbreak had rendered the traditional way of working no longer sustainable. Michelle Curry encourages women to become resilient by overcoming fear and making a firm decision to enter the digital age.
Wendy Wang, CMO of Thai Fintech, echoed Curry’s point. She added that e-commerce is a relatively suitable job for women, with flexibility in time and a relatively low entry barrier.
While each speaker offered suggestions based on their individual experiences, all of them stressed the importance of women’s unity, encouraging women to support and help one another both emotionally and financially. “Women benefit more from hearing from others. Learn from other female entrepreneurs and create your sounding board,” said Maaike Steinebach.
With digital transformation and the rise of women’s economic power, women entrepreneurs are unleashing their expertise and creativity to lead enterprises in various fields.
To hear more inspiring stories and witness women’s real power in the business world, please stay tuned to The Women Connect Entrepreneurship Competition https://www.dhgate.com/activities/promotion/2020womencompetition.html.
Founded in 2004, DHgate has become one of the leading B2B cross-border e-commerce marketplaces in China. Through our global operations and offices, including in the USA and UK, we reach millions of people with trusted products and services. As of June 30th, 2020, DHgate served more than 31 million registered buyers from over 220 countries and regions by connecting them to over 2.2 million suppliers in China and other countries, with over 32 million products. For more information, please visit dhgate.com and follow @DHgate.com.