WEI has developed specialist expertise across the enterprise development and entrepreneurship, particularly for micro, small, and medium enterprises. Our role in catalyzing women’s enterprise development covers a spectrum of activities, including:
- Support for women-owned/-led enterprises from concept/start-up to operation and scaling up for impact,
- Initiatives designed to foster a favorable entrepreneurship ecosystem for women’s enterprise and innovation.
The challenges and needs experienced by women entrepreneurs change as their businesses evolve, so WEI has built into its life-cycle approach to supporting these entrepreneurs. Although at times it is useful to segment by sector of activity or by size (micro, small, or medium), this integrative approach incorporates a tried and tested model that includes segments that reflect the evolution of women’s enterprise and entrepreneurship. Family businesses constitute another segment that takes the family-owned business dynamics into consideration.
Strategic areas of focus and areas of activity
- Fostering an enterprise culture: It is important to instill a sense of enterprise in girls and boys from a very early age, ideally through the educational system, by teaching primary and secondary level classes in an enterprising manner. This enhances the confidence of young children, develops their curiosity and proactivity, as well as providing them with tools to “learn to learn”. This involves working with teachers and schools, building their capacity to teach in an enterprising manner and providing them with tools to put this into practice
- Developing enterprising competencies: In secondary and higher-level education, developing enterprise skills in young adults offers them the tools and options to set up a new venture or to engage in entrepreneurship in a new context. Programmes are designed to nurture enterprise competencies in young people, resulting in an improved knowledge and understanding of their options for creating enterprises. Significant outcomes include improved confidence and self-esteem, economic independence, and a transformation from being disengaged or excluded to becoming empowered to make a difference within their local environments – and beyond.
- Enterprise as a path to economic empowerment: Different constituencies, social and economic groups can also benefit from enterprise development training and support. For example, entrepreneurship may be an avenue for autistic women who find it difficult to adjust to the corporate world; young graduates may find that they need to develop enterprising competences to complement their degree, either to find the right career or to set themselves up on their own; individuals in transition due to redundancies, women re-entering the world of work after a break as family carers, and women migrants and refugees may benefit from developing these skills as a path to become economically empowered.
- Developing business ecosystems and enabling environments: The overall legal and regulatory environment, the business support system, the extent to which entrepreneurship is seen in a positive light and successful role models exist, together with sociocultural issues that influence the role of women in society, all work together to influence how easy or difficult it is for a women to set up and grow a successful business. To improve these elements, WEI draws on proven analyses and analytical methodologies in working with policy makers to assess the degree to which women entrepreneurs are negatively affected by the business enabling environment and makes recommendations for addressing specific barriers. In addition, WEI provides technical assistance to business support organizations, financial institutions, and legal advisors to assess the gender sensitivity of their programmes and initiatives, in order to better address the specific needs of SMEs and women entrepreneurs.
- Helping institutions embrace entrepreneurialism: Working with university and other institutional leaders to help them introduce and sustain enterprising approaches is an important way to ensure that they remain relevant to society’s evolving needs.
- Providing assistance on trade and investment opportunities for women entrepreneurs