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Women in Ecommerce

Each month we publish an interview by our Board member, Mpho Sekwele. This month we are publishing 6 points by the UNCTAD’s e-Trade for Women initiative to show how vital the role of women in ecommerce and what is needed to develop.

“The very first necessary step to changing the ecommerce gender status quo is to raise visibility. The next is to support women already in the industry doing the dual work of launching and running businesses, and simultaneously trying to manage and change perceptions. The goal is for everyone to get involved in making successful ecommerce businesswomen stand out and be proud.

Successful women are not a threat. But super successful women often are perceived as threats – and this is when men tend to want to take over, or at least when investors and decision-makers are likely to hear men over women. Our women in ecommerce advise that when the real investment is on the table this is the time to hold the course and keep steering your ship.

While the internet has opened new opportunities for women to participate in global trade and businesswomen can access a bigger global consumer base than ever before, there is a big gap between male and female internet usage. These trends play out in developed and developing countries alike. Overall, 12% fewer women use the internet than men. In sub-Saharan Africa, it’s as high as 25%, and in LDCs even 33%. Given the opportunity, women entrepreneurs are more likely to engage in digital entrepreneurship, but the challenge is facilitating this access in the first place. More needs to be done and more attention needs to be focused on digital inclusion. Our women in ecommerce called for greater efforts to achieve gender equality online to inspire more women-led ecommerce.

The private sector and investors need to take up the cause of growing the number of women digital entrepreneurs, our women in ecommerce say. This is because it makes business sense. Cameroonian-born tech entrepreneur, Rebecca Enonchong, asked: “What can you do? The answer is: to buy from us. One of the areas we struggle with is procurement. Something must be done in the procurement process to allow women to access it. We can grow without funding, but we can’t scale without funding.”

The message that we need more women who are ambitious and want to lead in the ecommerce field was loud and clear. “We need to push women to dream big. Together we must equip women with tools, skills and networks they need, and support them to rise to senior positions. Give women the opportunity and they will rise to it and ensure their extended family benefits,” said Nina Angelovska, now North Macedonia’s finance minister and previously the CEO and co-founder of the ecommerce company

We have the double challenge of gender and making the digital economy acceptable to governments, especially in developing countries. Houda Chakiri, CEO and founder of Enhanced Technologies, a Moroccan IT company specializing in developing eGovernment solutions, cited an example of when a government official told her that roads are prioritized over skills development for women in the digital economy. This needs to change. And together with more women in ecommerce advocating for change at the policy-making table, governments can deliver a policy that provides access and opportunity.”

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Alastair Tempest

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