Enhancing women’s entrepreneurship critical to inclusive and sustainable development in Southeast Asia

The ASEAN Forum on Fostering Women’s Entrepreneurship today underscored that increasing women’s economic participation and entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia will be critical to realizing both the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025.

Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in cooperation with the Institute for Societal Leadership and the Shirin Fozdar Programme at the Singapore Management University, and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative, the forum supports multi-stakeholder efforts to create an enabling legal and policy environment for women’s economic participation.

Participants from the region highlighted national experiences, challenges and solutions in addressing barriers to the economic empowerment of women.

“Small and medium-sized enterprises form the engine driving ASEAN’s economic dynamism,” said Mr. Nagesh Kumar, Director of the Social Development Division of ESCAP. “Catalyzing the entrepreneurial talent of over 60 million women who own and operate enterprises in the 10 ASEAN countries will have significant multiplier effects towards creating a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future for all.”

An ESCAP study on Fostering women’s entrepreneurship in ASEAN: Transforming prospects, transforming societies was also launched at the forum. The publication proposes key actions that can be taken by ASEAN governments to address the constraints facing women entrepreneurs such as greater access to, and use of innovative technologies, along with creative approaches to accessing finance and credit services.

Research in three ASEAN countries found that, compared with male business owners, women business owners hired 17 per cent more women employees. Women also tend to use their incomes more productively, devoting 90 cents of every dollar they earn on their families and communities including on children’s education, health and nutrition - compared to 30-40 cents by men.

“Goldman Sachs is pleased to be a long-term supporter of ESCAP in their efforts to promote women’s entrepreneurship,” said Ms. Sheila Patel, CEO of International Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “Their study adds to research done by Goldman Sachs and others that enabling women’s economic empowerment is important to building more prosperous and inclusive communities.”

Chairperson of the Shirin Fozdar Programme at the Singapore Management University, Ms. Claire Chang added, “We are grateful for the support of ESCAP in this initiative to influence changes in societal norms in ASEAN, and empower women in this region to be leaders in their communities. This forum is in line with the Shirin Fozdar Programme’s objective to connect international policymakers, businesses and institutions to nurture the development of women entrepreneurs in making a difference to women’s lives in ASEAN.”

For further information, please contact:
Katie Elles, Public Information Officer, Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP, T: (66) 2 288 1865 / M: (66) 9481 525 36 / E: [email protected]