Supporting Women-Owned Businesses in COVID-19 Recovery

Supporting Women


To mark the opening of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, Uniting Business LIVE was held from 21-23 September 2020. It convened leaders from business, Government and civil society to showcase their commitment to the UN’s mission, drive business ambition on the SDGs; take stock of the state of the world and gaps in progress; and highlight practical examples and actionable solutions. Uniting Business LIVE included the Private Sector Forum (Monday 21 September), the Global Impact Forum (Tuesday 22 September) and the SDG Business Forum (Wednesday 23 September). The dialogue on “Supporting women-owned businesses in COVID-19 recovery” was held during the Global Impact Forum. Sponsors of the event: UN Women/WE EMPOWER G7 Programme, Arizona State University Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, and We Empower UN SDG Challenge.



COVID-19 has exacerbated gender inequalities and poses a serious threat to the fragile gains made for women’s economic empowerment since the world united in 1995 for the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Women’s businesses are especially at risk since they are concentrated in some of the worst hit sectors and industries. The challenges they face in accessing support is a reflection of pervasive gender inequality. Globally, 90 per cent of women business owners reported a significant decrease in sales or revenue in the first quarter of 2020. Almost 40 per cent of women surveyed said they feared not being able to pay wages to employees.


As we respond and recover from the crisis, we have an opportunity to build back better by building an ecosystem that fosters gender equality, and women entrepreneurs that are resilient and contribution to growth and sustainability. For this we need to: (1) create an enabling environment through legal and policy constructs that foster and encourage women’s entrepreneurship; and provide women entrepreneurs with (2) access to information; (3) access to markets; (4) access to finance; and (5) access to networks.

The public sector, private sector, and civil society each play an important role in developing these five elements from their own unique positions of influence. Recovery from business closures and wide-scale unemployment will take time and will require extra resources from the government and private sector. Many government programmes have already been announced. However, greater efforts are required to support entrepreneurial activity – especially women-owned SMEs. It can have greater impact in restoring economies so that we emerge stronger, more inclusive and equal in the post-COVID-19 era.

The event will be conducted on Global Impact Forum.  



The event aims at stimulating a dialogue on:

  • The impact that COVID-19 has had on women-owned SMEs and how they have adapted to cope with the challenges.

  • How the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) framework can serve as a model for effective response and recovery.

  • How governments, civil society and the private sector can support women-owned businesses amid COVID-19.

  • How the UN Women Advocacy Toolkit can be used by business associations and women entrepreneurs.

The winners of the WE Empower UN SDG Challenge will also be announced and presented. 


12:00 pm  Opening remarks

Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women
Hilde Hardeman, Head of the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI)
Carin Jämtin, Director-General, Sida
Amanda Ellis, Director Global Partnerships, - ASU Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory

12:15 pm  Panel: Women-owned business at the center of COVID-19 response and recovery

Moderator: Anna Falth, Head of WEPs Secretariat, Manager of WE EMPOWER G7 Programme, UN Women

Amy Neale, Senior Vice President, Start Path and Fintech at Mastercard
Julia Simon, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary at Mary Kay Inc.
Jorim Schraven, Director Impact and ESG, FMO

12:45 pm  Women Entrepreneurs and WE EMPOWER UN SDG CHALLENGE

Amanda Ellis, Director Global Partnerships, ASU Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory

1:10 pm  Panel: Leadership and Changemakers

Moderator: Patti Greene,Professor Emerita, Babson College

Bessie Schwartz, Cloud to Street (U.S.)
Ioana Bauer, Eliberare (Romania)
Inna Braverman, Eco Wave Power Ltd. (Israel)
Ahu Buyukkusoglu Serter, Arya Women Investment Platform (Turkey)
Katharina Paoli Brunat, Nudgd (Sweden)

1:20 pm  Dialogue among Speakers and participants

1:30 pm  Closing Remarks