MANILA, Philippines – The public and the private sector should look at and review their procurement laws and policies to include more women-owned enterprises in their supply chain.
This was the recommendation highlighted during the GREAT (Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation) Women Forum held Friday, March 11, at the Yuchengco Museum, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, in a bid to include more women-owned suppliers in the market, especially on the shelves of major supermarkets and grocery stores.
“The role of women in the global economy cannot be ignored,” said Aurora Geotina-Garcia, chair of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines (WBC).
Emmeline Versoza, executive director of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) said that 85% of global consumers are women, with around $20 trillion in global spending yearly. “And gender-diverse companies have been found to be 70% more profitable,” she added.
“When women succeed, we all win,” said Elizabeth Hernandez, head of public policy for Asia and the Pacific at Facebook, and cited a United Nations study which estimated that the region’s economy would earn $89 billion annually if women are able to reach their full economic potential.
Hernandez added that In the Philippines alone, 45% of SMEs (small and medium enterprises) are already owned by women,” said Hernandez. If Facebook business pages are any indication, between 2012 and 2015, the number of women-owned business pages on Facebook grew fourfold, adding to the now 50-million strong business pages on Facebook owned by MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises).
Zenaida Maglaya, undersecretary for the Regional Operations Group of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said that most of their clients are women, especially in their 149 Negosyo Centers all over the country. “They have the courage to avail of our services,” she said.
Maglaya also cited the Shared Services Facilities (usually granted to cooperatives by the DTI) for women beneficiaries helped in doubling, tripling product volume, and improving product quality.
Why support women entrepreneurs
The GREAT Women project aims to expand and develop new markets for the distribution of goods made by women-owned enterprises, especially from the micro-enterprise sector. The forum was organized by the ECHOsi Foundation and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), the primary policy-making and coordinating body of the government on gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the fulfillment of women’s human rights.
“The project aims to meet, match, and develop partnerships with women vendors. This will promote inclusive entrepreneurship, where women vendors are linked to the supply chain,” said Emmeline Versoza, executive director of the PCW. Versoza suggested further that it be a “holistic,” multi-stakeholder approach wherein assistance for product development, industrial development, and financing would also be included.
The project also aims to assist around 12,000 women entrepreneurs and their employees by boosting the competitiveness and sustainability of their businesses by providing access to market, financial and material resources, trainings, and other forms of support up until 2020.
Still, a lot of challenges remain for women entrepreneurs in the Philippines. But, as the advocates said, it can be rooted in their lack of business confidence.
“Women need to assert themselves more,” said Geotina-Garcia of the WBC.
“You should have ambition,” Isabel “Beng” Tesoro, president of Tesoro’s Handicrafts, told the women entrepreneurs in the audience.
Tesoro said that compliance shows that they have big dreams for their enterprises. “Register the business, pay the proper taxes—that’s how you show that you have big ambitions for your business,” she added.
Geotina-Garcia of the WBC added that public procurement from women vendors is still minimal, and that contracts remain big that they cannot participate.
Alma Rita Jimenez, chairperson of the Trade and Industry Committee of the Management Association of the Philippines, said that consistency in quality of goods remain a challenge among women-owned small enterprises. “The medium [enterprises] should act as conduits for the small [enterprises] to ensure efficiency and quality,” she added.
Pacita Juan, director of ECHOstore and advocate of coffee farming in the Philippines, suggested that both the public and the private sector look at and review their procurement laws and policies to ensure that women-owned businesses are included in their supply chain.
Juan even went as far as to suggest to Jon Mykel Teodoro, director of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association, and Steven Cua, president of Wellcome Supermart and member of the Philippine Retailers Association, that they, as major retailers, document who their suppliers are to ensure that women vendors are being included in their supply chain. She also suggested that there be specialized payment terms for women vendors to ensure that these suppliers are being paid on time.
Geotina-Garcia of the WBC, on the other hand, suggested that there should be an increase in information dissemination for procurement opportunities in the public and private sector; a standardized bidding process so that women-owned small enterprises can participate; and an established financial infrastructure to support the development of women entrepreneurs in the country.
“Qualified vendors should also be given bonus points if they’re owned by women, employ women, and provide products and services purchased by women,” Geotina-Garcia added.