Strengthening Support for Women Entrepreneurs during COVID-19 - Advocacy Tool Launch and Consultation on the Definition of Women-Owned Businesses


COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities and posed a serious threat to the fragile gains made for women’s economic empowerment. Prior to the crisis communities around the world were preparing to call for radical action to advance women’s economic empowerment through the Generation Equality Campaign which marked 25 years since the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Today, COVID-19 has exposed sizeable cracks in our social, political and economic systems. As we recover and respond from the crisis, we have an opportunity to build back better – with a globally coordinated multi-stakeholder approach to strengthen a women’s economic empowerment ecosystem that fosters growth, sustainability, and resilience for women entrepreneurs.

On 9 September 2020, UN Women hosted a two-part discussion on women’s entrepreneurship:

1. Advocacy Tool Launch (9AM to 10AM ET)

The WE EMPOWER-G7 Programme team – with the support of renowned women’s economic empowerment experts across the G7 and the European Union – have prepared an Advocacy Tool – Strengthening Support for Women Entrepreneurs in COVID-19 Response and Recovery to drive increased support by stakeholders within the entrepreneurship ecosystem for women’s entrepreneurship and gender equality amid COVID-19. At this inspirational Launch Event we shared an overview of the Advocacy Tool highlighting the important role that we all play in advocating for gender equality and the unique impact our efforts have on strengthening women’s entrepreneurship.

2. Consultation on Developing a Standardized Definition of “Woman-Owned Business” and Guidance on Its Use (10AM to 11:30AM ET)

Following the launch event participants were invited to a consultation on the definition of women-owned businesses. The International Trade Centre (ITC) and Swedish Institute for Standards (SIS) in collaboration with UN Women are convening stakeholders from the public sector, private sector and civil society to initiate an informal stakeholder meeting on developing a standardized definition of women-owned business and guidance on its use. The meeting was organized as part of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) International Workshop Agreement (IWA) process on the “Definition of a Woman-Owned Business and Guidance on its Use". This meeting aimed to give participants an overview of the IWA process and to kick-start discussions on issues surrounding defining woman-owned businesses.

See the following backgrounder documents for the consultation session:

 Technical note on Definitions for Women's Businesses

 Guiding Questions 



"Strengthening Support for Women Entrepreneurs in #COVID19 Response and Recovery" is an advocacy tool which highlights how we can strengthen support for women entrepreneurs as we #BuildBackBetter.

Check it out🔎 #WeCommit


— Empower Women (@Empower_Women) September 9, 2020


Part 1- Advocacy Tool Launch

Amparo de San Jose, Director - IESE Business Angels


Amparo de San José is Director at IESE’s Business Angels Network since 2009 The network reached a record investment year in 2018 with 36 deals and 4 million invested, currently with a 270 startups portfolio In 2013 IESE was recognized with the Award for Best European Business Angel Network and in 2019 with the AEBAN Award for best initiative in the field of startup investment for its community of women angel investors Previously, de San José served as consultant for InterAmerican Development Bank in Washington, and keeps occasional collaboration with the institution on entrepreneurship issues She is the co author of “A gender financing gap fake news or evidence?” with Rudy Aernoudt and AEBAN Business Angels Report since 2016 (an annual report on the situation of business angel investment in Spain) Currently, she is the lead person behind Startup Europe Latin America and Women Angels 4 Entrepreneurs in Spain.


Antonia Lorenzo Lopez, CEO and Co-Founder, Bioazul

Mrs. Antonia Lorenzo López, graduated with a M.Sc. in Chemistry with the specialty of Agricultural Chemistry at the University of Murcia, master’s in Environmental Technologies and Engineering, and currently pursuing a PhD in Economic Evaluation of the use of reclaimed water at the University of Córdoba. Ms. Lorenzo is the CEO and R&D Director at BIOAZUL since its creation in 2003. She is specialist in technologies for the minimization and up-grading of agro-food residues and wastewater treatment and reuse technologies. She is a founding member of BIOAZUL and has extensive experience in the coordination of research and development projects in the field of sustainable water management (treatment and reuse), circular economy, nature-based solutions and resource sustainability among others. Antonia has worked as a project manager for 20 years and during this period she prepared and managed successfully several international R&D&I projects. She is in charge of BIOAZUL R&D strategy and of supervising all company projects, including the current 14 H2020, 4 coordinated by BIOAZUL, 1 PRIMA and 1 ERASMUS+. In addition, she works since April 2012 as External Expert of the European Commission for Exploitation and IPR issues, as Project Technical Advisor (NANOSELECT project) and as proposal evaluator. She is very active as mentor and evaluator of innovate startups such as FAN programme of the EIT Food Initiative.

Barbara Orser, Professor University of Ottawa

Dr. Orser is a Full Professor and the Deloitte Professor in the Management of Growth Enterprises Her research, teaching and advocacy focus on entrepreneurship and women’s economic empowerment Advisory roles include a Women 20 (W 20 Acting Head of Delegation Canada, UN Women WE Empower Advisory Group Canada, board member of Women’s Economic Imperative, editorial board of the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, and Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Policy Research Group. She is the former Chair of the Taskforce for Women's Enterprise Growth 2009 to 2011 a Canadian non partisan consortium of prominent women business owners, service agencies, academics and industry associations Prior to joining Telfer School of Management in 2005 she was an Associate Professor at Carleton and Ryerson University, and Program Manager of the Conference Board of Canada Centre of Excellence for Women's Advancement.




Rebeca De Sancho Mayoral, European Commission, Executive Agency for SMEs (EASME)

Rebeca De Sancho Mayoral has been working for the past six years as an Advisor for the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator at the European Executive Agency for SMEs ( adhered to the European Commission). She holds a BA in Business Economics and an international MA in "European Law and Economics". Her curriculum strolls more than sixteen years of working experience gained while working in the implementation of international projects in the private and the public sector 13 years ago, she moved to Brussels to pursue the European dream, envisaging to impact European policies She has worked in international projects of the European Commission in the areas of Internal Market (Enterprise and entrepreneurship, Taxation, Customs), Innovation and digital policy, Home affairs, and in the International relations area, in particular, with the Neighborhood countries to the EU Rebeca is a restless gender equality advocate who supports several women's organisations actions (an ex Board/founding member of "Women in International Security Brussels") Therefore, gender equality and mainstreaming it into policies, has become part of her normal life path As an enthusiast, passionate and committed woman to closing the gender gaps, Women Entrepreneurship and closing the gender investment funding) gap have become part of her actual goals In 2016 she became alumni of the University of California after following the "Women on Boards Leadership and Management Programme W 50 at the UCLA Anderson School Business.
Part 2- Consultation

Judith Fessehaie, Policy Lead, She Trades Initiative – International Trade Centre

Judith is Policy Lead, SheTrades Initiative, at the International Trade Centre (ITC). In this capacity she manages projects related to trade policy and women’s economic empowerment at global and regional levels; gender-disaggregated data collection and analysis; and technical support to national trade and trade-related policy reforms. Prior to joining ITC, Judith managed the trade and development programme at a leading Geneva-based think tank; and worked as a trade, industrial and regional value chain advisor at the Johannesburg-based Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development (CCRED); TradeMark Southern Africa, Zambia's Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. She also taught an MPhil in Industrial Policy run by UN IDEP – University of Johannesburg. She holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Cape Town, where she was also associated with the Policy Research on International Services and Manufacturing (PRISM) centre. She also holds a MA in Development Economics from Norwich University, a post-graduate diploma in International Trade Law from the Università di Torino, and a Bachelor of Arts from the Università di Milano.

Maria Gustafsson, Project Manager – Swedish Institute for Standards

Maria Gustafsson is project manager in the Department of Standardisation at the Swedish Institute for Standards, SIS. She is the standardization project manager for  ISO/IWA 34 Definition of a woman-owned business and guidance on its use, working closely together with the International Trade Centre, ITC. During her 12 years at SIS her main focus has been sustainability aspects for the forest industry and bioenergy, and she has led/leads several international and European working groups on these topics.She has successfully coordinated a project within the Swedish strategic innovation program BioInnovation called Sustainability criteria and life cycle assessment for forestry, where European standards for bio-based products were used as the basis for more detailed tools and data for the Swedish forest industry. She has also participated in several other initiatives bringing standardisation and R&I closer together and received one of the first European “Standards + Innovation” awards for this work in 2019. She is a member of the board for research program STEPS – Sustainable Plastics and Transition Pathways.


Vanessa Erogbogbo -- Chief, Sustainable and Inclusive Value Chains, International Trade Centre

                Vanessa Erogbogbo is Chief, Sustainable and Inclusive Value Chains section at the International Trade Centre and a member of the Management Action Group. She has over 20 years of experience in private sector development having worked in both international development and the private sector. She oversees ITC’s work on sustainability and trade, and trade and gender including the SheTrades initiative which is connecting 3 million women to market by 2021; and the Trade for Sustainable Development programme which powers SMEs for a sustainable future with a focus on labour, social impact, climate change and environment. Vanessa is a member of the advisory board of the Geneva Trade Platform housed within the Geneva Graduate Institute’s Centre for Trade and Economic Integration, and is vice-chairperson of the EQUALS Global Partnership steering committee. She previously held positions at the International Finance Corporation, Standard Chartered Bank, and as an entrepreneur. She holds an MBA from the London Business School, and MSc Information Technology and B.Eng Hons in Civil Engineering from Loughborough University, UK.




Event organized by WE EMPOWER - G7:

“Promoting economic empowerment of women at work through responsible business conduct in G7 countries” (WE EMPOWER – G7) is a programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UN Women and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The WE EMPOWER Programme convene multistakeholder dialogues in the EU, Canada, Japan and the US to exchange knowledge, experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the context of the changing world of work.

  • You must be logged in to post a comment
Please enter a comment