Both the Addis Agenda and the 2030 Agenda establish a strong link between gender equality and women’s empowerment on one hand, and achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable development on the other. They both call for gender mainstreaming in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, environmental and social policies.
There is a virtuous cycle in terms of inclusiveness that could be triggered by fostering women entrepreneurship. From survey data, it is observable that women entrepreneurs create more jobs for women. In 40 per cent of women-owned firms included in the survey sample, the majority of employees are female, compared to just 22 per cent in men-owned and managed exporting companies. Over half of male-owned/managed exporters have fewer than 20 per cent of women in the workforce. Sector activity has a greater impact than company size on women employment and ownership. Further research and statistical analysis are needed to substantiate the findings and determine the direction of causality (if any).
Increasing export participation by women-owned businesses may be one route to creating higher middle-class incomes and address the issue of large wage gaps faced by women workforce. The average pay by exporting women-owned businesses is approximately 1.6 times higher than the average pay at non-exporting women-owned businesses. This ‘exporter premium’, the amount which exporters pay more than non-exporters, is larger than the equivalent premium for male-owned businesses. Higher wages for female employees, however, are likely to have knock-on effects on the wider economy, as women in developing countries are known to have a higher propensity than men to invest in their families and in the community at large, leading to a positive impact for the country as a whole. Given that women in developing countries tend to have a higher propensity than men to invest in their families and the community, higher wages for female employees could lead for instance to higher expenditure on school enrolment for children, including girls.
A better understanding of the issues behind women participation in international trade would also require an additional effort in the collection of more disaggregated data and firm level information which are not part of official international trade statistics.