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SL women more likely to face institutional and sociocultural barriers -survey

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Most women-owned businesses (WOBs) are not members of influential business associations or networks which limits their access to large buyers, the survey adds.

Women in Sri Lanka own approximately 253,000 or 25% of all private businesses, and yet large corporations find it difficult to identify and buy from women suppliers. Over 81% of the buyers have a very limited understanding of supplier diversity and inclusion (SD&I) or gender inclusive sourcing while less than 10% of the WOBs have a contract with corporate buyers.

Nearly 40% of the WOBs face challenges in responding to procurement opportunities and also struggle to articulate their value proposition and often face language barriers. ‘Less than 10% of the WOBs export their products, thereby restricting their growth potential,’ the survey adds.

“It’s the perfect time–as supply chains are reestablished–to open the door to greater inclusivity among participating businesses, especially if we can set aside our preconceived and often inaccurate notions of who makes a successful and reliable supply chain partner,” said US Ambassador for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Alina Teplitz (Pictured) at the WEConnect International hosted roundtable last week with the U.S. Department of State, and local business leaders.

The event was held to present research findings on the status of women-owned businesses (WOBs) in corporate value chains in Sri Lanka and why only a handful of women suppliers win procurement contracts with large buyers. The research was compiled by Chrysalis Research for the WEConnect International “Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion” pilot project, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

The pilot project c included not only Sri Lanka, but also India, Bangladesh and the Maldives. The research was conducted over a 12-week period and the report will be published this month.

“WEConnect International’s first step was to commission research to identify key market linkages, challenges, needs and capacity of WOBs, corporations and other key stakeholders in Sri Lanka,” said Eroshan Alagaretnam, (Pictured) Regional Director–South Asia, WEConnect International. To page 18…

“We will now implement the project through local and regional business training, networking, and other means of support for women-owned SMEs in Sri Lanka in an effort to promote sustainable development and gender equity. Through this three-year project, WEConnect International will work with partners to create a more seamless integration of Sri Lankan certified women’s business enterprises into corporate, multilateral and government value chains as a win-win solution,” said Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International.

“WEConnect International’s work is so exciting because it addresses a major market failure,” said Laura Stone, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, U.S. State Department. “Supporting women’s economic advancement is good business and critical for national economic growth.”

Roundtable participants included world leaders in gender inclusive sourcing such as IBM, Marriott International, Citi, Trane Technology, DELL and JP Morgan. Local businesses that participated in the Roundtable included Brandix Apparel Limited, Dialog Axiata PLC, DFCC bank, John Keells Holdings PLC, Hemas Holdings PLC, HNB, Jetwing Hotels and many others.

WEConnect International works with over 125 multinational buyers, with over $1 trillion in combined annual purchasing power, that have committed to sourcing more products and services from women-owned businesses based in over 125 countries.

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