Forum inspires and increases networking opportunities for women-led businesses

A women's business forum, entitled Scaling up Women-led Business, was held in Hanoi on October 28.

At the women's business forum, entitled Scaling up Women-led Business. VNS Photo Thanh Hai 

More than 120 participants, consisting of female start-up founders and entrepreneurs, attended the forum, jointly organised by the Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE) and Endeavor Vietnam with the support from the Embassy of Canada in Vietnam, VNS reported.

“Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is critical to the achievement of peace, prosperity, and sustainable development. Canada prioritises investments, partnerships and advocacy efforts that have the greatest potential to close gender gaps, and to promote women’s economic rights and leadership. The embassy of Canada is pleased to work hand-in-hand with local partners like WISE to advance women’s economic empowerment, including helping women-led businesses to grow," said Deborah Paul, Ambassador of Canada to Vietnam.

According to the Business Report in Vietnam by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), by the end of September 2019, there were more than 285,700 businesses owned or led by women, accounting for 24 per cent of the total number of businesses across the country. However, almost all are small and micro sized enterprises operating mainly in the service sector.

“Working with women entrepreneurs in the WISE community, we found that main challenges for women to take higher roles in larger enterprises or scaling up their business include social norms and prejudice, work-life balance, limited knowledge and skills for business management, and limited access to finance and networks,” said Tu Thu Hien, WISE CEO.

The forum aimed to discuss challenges faced by women-owned or led businesses in the scaling process; lessons learnt and practical experiences in scaling up businesses from small to medium and large size shared by successful entrepreneurs.

Participants also spoke about potential economic and social impacts that can be achieved if gender equality and entrepreneurship is enhanced. The event is a chance to inspire and increase networking opportunities among participants and guest speakers.

“Women-owned enterprises in their scaling up process need very different forms of support compared to the initial stage. The skills that help them succeed at the start of a business may no longer be relevant when the business is established and on the verge of strong growth. Therefore, in addition to existing organisations that support women to start a business, there should be more specialised organisations and/or initiatives to support female leaders in scaling up their businesses, particularly in access to funding or to mentoring programmes,” said Nguyen Lan Anh, Managing Director of Endeavor Vietnam.

Despite representing such a small percentage of all enterprises nationwide, women-owned businesses (WOB) have many strengths over their male counterparts, according to other studies, such as employing more female workers, paying higher social insurance, and incurring less costs to create jobs.

More women are becoming entrepreneurs each year, but they are less likely to grow and scale their business to medium and large size compared to men. The number of WOB gradually decreases as the size of the enterprise grows. According to a study by the Asian Development Bank, women owned businesses account for only 13.6 per cent of large enterprises.

At the event, participants also heard success stories and ideas shared by prominent female business leaders, diversified in size, generations and industries to clearly outline the development journey of businesses owned and led by women.

According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019, Vietnam is among top 20 markets for women entrepreneurs in the world.

The index also shows that Vietnam is among the top five markets in terms of women borrowing or saving to start a business and having access to financial services and products and tertiary education.

In the Asia Pacific region, women in Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines have reached parity with men in terms of their inclination to engage in entrepreneurship.

Pham Thu