The Women’s Entrepreneurship Expo Concept

The Context

Typically earning less and holding less secure jobs than men, women have been disproportionately hit by COVID-19 and plummeting economic activity in Serbia. Photo: UN Women/Marija Piroski

One year on since the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, its impact remains profound on people’s social, economic, physical and mental well-being. Lockdowns and other measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 continue to shift gender dynamics, notably exposing underlying inequalities in the socioeconomic system. The COVID-19 pandemic risks exacerbating and deepening pre-existing inequalities for women and girls, especially those from underserved households and more vulnerable settings. Women’s economic security has been hit hard, impacting employment and income.

Pre-existing inequalities faced by women entrepreneurs of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) are also increasing significantly. For women-owned MSMEs, deeply rooted structural gender inequalities have resulted in unequal access to infrastructure, productive resources and procurement opportunities.

COVID-19 has further and disproportionately impacted women entrepreneurs insofar as women-led MSMEs are more likely than those led by men to be concentrated in sectors with lower profit margins or to be operating in sectors impacted by lockdown restrictions.

Supporting all efforts to preserve gender equality gains and achievements made thus far, enhancing women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment during and after COVID-19 is a key priority for UN Women. In responding to the crisis and in building back better, impactful innovations and solutions are required to accelerate progress towards gender equality and sustainable business transformations for women entrepreneurs.

The UN Women Regional Office is implementing a project “Responding to the urgent needs of women and girls in marginalized and vulnerable situations exacerbated by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in Europe and Central Asia”, to improve their labour and career opportunities, and start or grow their businesses with increased access to markets, financial capital and business education. The project is being implemented with the generous support of the Government of Japan.

The Platform

Emine Yavuz a mother of three from Turkey smiles with one of her hand-crafted toys which are an important added source of income for her family. Photo: UN Women/Tayfun Dalkılıç. 

The Expo is an online space created to promote women’s economic security, empowerment, entrepreneurship development and business inclusion during COVID-19 response and recovery. The platform will provide visibility and business-development opportunities for women and contribute to creating inclusive marketplaces. It will also seek to create and expand inclusive value chains that can also yield greater profits for women entrepreneurs. 

The Agenda 

Day One

Day Two

Ask The Experts

Ask the Experts visual

Day Three

Partner Booths

Partner booth

Marketplace by Women Entrepreneurs

Expo booth directory 4

Participating Women Entrepreneurs

Nana Kheladze from a high mountainous settlement in Georgia becomes a successful entrepreneur. The bread made by this young entrepreneur instantly gained popularity. Photo: Sopo Maghaldadze

Participating women entrepreneurs will be recipients of UN Women programming across the region, as well as those who registered for the Expo via an open call disseminated through the UN Women Regional Office and field offices’ social communication channels and those of partners, civil society and entrepreneur networks. Particular effort has been made to include women from vulnerable settings and whose livelihoods have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the Expo, women entrepreneurs will have the chance to:

  • Showcase their business ideas, products and services
  • Meet service-providers and learn from experts
  • Connect with other women entrepreneurs
  • Create, refine and test business ideas/plans
  • Gather inspiration for business growth
  • Build the confidence to pitch their business plans
  • Ask questions to companies, investors and business experts

Get Involved: Private Sector

Ekaterina Yakovleva made a reusable grocery bag for fruit and vegetables. People across Serbia now use her eco-bags as environmentally friendly alternatives to disposable plastic bags. Photo: UN Women/Daria Komleva

Participating private sector and business investor partners will include signatories of the Women’s Empowerment Principles established by the UN Global Compact and UN Women. Other private sector and business investor partners will include those who:

  • have a passion for gender equality and women’s empowerment
  • want to accelerate support to women entrepreneurs (including those from vulnerable settings) and promote women’s economic empowerment, livelihoods and economic independence
  • want to include or bring more women entrepreneurs into their value chains
  • are leaders in gender-inclusive workplaces, equal access to decent work, women in leadership and ensuring women can work free from discrimination or harassment, and in adopting related company practices and policies
  • are looking to change organizational policies and procedures to create entry points for women entrepreneurs
  • can share their work and experiences in tackling gender inequalities with solutions for women entrepreneurs to access wider markets and business ecosystems
  • can commit their time in one or more of the following roles:
    • expert speakers in co-creation hubs
    • mentors in the interactive sessions
    • resource persons for women entrepreneurs to reach out to during select sessions
  • are able to:
    • sponsor a small group of women entrepreneurs to enter and/or expand outreach in business markets
    • offer business start-up and growth incentives
    • offer seed capital to a select number of women entrepreneurs to establish or grow their businesses.

See also: