More gender-sensitive policies ‘needed’ for women to thrive in e-commerce: UN

More gender-sensitive policies ‘needed’ for women to thrive in e-commerce: UN

E-COMMERCE and digital entrepreneurship are powerful avenues for women’s inclusion in the digital economy, but more gender-sensitive policies and actions are needed to enable women small business owners to overcome major challenges, according to the United Nations (UN).

A report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) in May 2023 examines the opportunities for women — particularly those living in developing countries like the Philippines — to harness digital trade for economic empowerment. With the rise of cross-border e-trade, the policy review urged stronger policy action to create enabling conditions for women. It called on policymakers to shore up gender considerations in e-commerce policymaking and negotiations, following the approach adopted in the landmark Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment, which puts gender equality on the agenda of the multilateral trading system.

While the digital economy is a very broad category, women could add over US$300 billion to e-commerce markets alone in Africa and Southeast Asia between 2025 and 2030, according to the International Finance Corp.

E-commerce offers key advantages to women, including lower barriers to entry than traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, and greater opportunities to expand their customer base beyond their local markets. It also affords a higher degree of flexibility in terms of work hours and location for women entrepreneurs with caregiving responsibilities or mobility constraints.

Among the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs are lack of access to finance, low knowledge about market requirements or e-payment options, limited business networks, and lower levels of entrepreneurial skills.

These challenges make women’s e-businesses smaller and less profitable than those run by men and restrict them to low-value-added sectors, Unctad said.

To empower women in digital trade, the policy review said measures should be taken to improve women’s regular internet productive use.

Recommendations to overcome these barriers include lowering the cost of internet subscription, providing access to internet services in local languages, and extending mobile coverage to areas still uncovered would.

Public authorities are also encouraged to increase efforts to set up or support platforms that focus on micro, small and medium enterprises, give priority to locally produced goods and services, or facilitate the internationalization of small companies.

Such initiatives will counter global platforms’ market dominance, their control over data, and the cost and requirements to access them, continued the report.

Other recommendations include enhancing women’s capacities through training in digital and business development skills, and collecting sex-disaggregated data to inform gender-responsive digital policies.

Also suggested are incorporating gender consideration in e-commerce discussions and negotiations, and sharing experiences and best practices, programs, and policies for encouraging women’s participation in e-commerce.

Policymakers should also adopt initiatives that leverage digital technology to improve women’s access to capital, enable women to participate in government procurement opportunities, and help women-led MSMEs adapt to digital trade. (PHILEXPORT)


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