Adjusting our metrics and measurements of success towards sustainability and humane investment, centering women, specifically through the expansion of womenentrepreneurs and women-led MSMEs.

This past week, members from around the business world gathered for the first ICSB Global Women Entrepreneurship (WE) Conference, a space designed for women that dare to pursue creative solutions for greater global impact. This conference comes at a crucial juncture, as MSMEs and entrepreneurs navigate an emerging and constantly changing business ecosystem. As we come together to reconsider and reimagine our world, it is clear that women play an increased and vital role in creating new, sustainable business practices. We hope that this conference, unique in its goals and ambition, will be the first of many such endeavors designed to take advantage of this historical moment and provide adequate resources and investments for women entrepreneurs and MSMEs.

Some of the themes we have stressed this year at ICSB have included sustainability, humane entrepreneurship and investment, flexibility, and resilience. Women have consistently been at the forefront of progress in all of these fields, and they have largely done so without significant investment from traditional business actors. We believe that resources like the WE Conference will help us all take advantage of the unique situation we find ourselves in by prioritizing and centering women’s experiences in the business ecosystem. Women have been working and innovating throughout history, even as the market has traditionally under-valued their labor. They have been forced to adapt creative and sustainable solutions with limited access to capital and no formal recognition within the system. Women overwhelmingly are the managers of their household, a chore far more cumbersome than most business management positions. They have experience in investing frugally to maximize services in the face of economic pressures.

Women have consistently met challenges with creative, quick thinking that has mostly prioritized sustainable, community-driven solutions to issues, which are precisely the values and experience we need to be centering at this moment. We can see this through the benefits that companies have brought in after hiring and promoting women executives, which have consistently been between a 15% and 69% increase in profits (Kathy Frey, WE Conference, 2020). Simply put, women are one of the top growth economies in an ecosystem looking for new growth opportunities.

With the dual challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and the looming instability that will accompany climate change, we have to begin changing how we view, understand, and carry out humane entrepreneurship and sustainable investment. Women have traditionally invested more of their finances in childcare and family development resources compared to men. Today, they spend on average 3x the time men do on domestic care and unpaid work. They have consistently been forced to produce more with less and have had to be sustainable and resilient to succeed. One of the most basic steps we can take to empower women in the business ecosystem is to have women decide for women.  Women’s autonomy is often overlooked because the struggles they face are hidden, a fact we saw throughout the world as many women were left out of stimulus packages passed in response to the COVID crisis. We must recognize that it is impossible to transition to sustainable, humane standards of entrepreneurship and investment without empowering and centering all women. Once we show women the support they deserve and are put in positions to influence and direct the activity in the business ecosystem, we will see improvements in every part of our society.

The process of transition to a business ecosystem that is more just, equitable, and profitable will not be an easy nor fast one. We have not been perfect here at ICSB, but we hope that this year’s WE Conference is the first of many such resources targeted towards women and their evolving role in society. As we adjust our metrics and measurements of success towards sustainability and humane investment, centering women, specifically through the expansion of women entrepreneurs and women-led MSMEs, will be crucial. We hope to bring attention to both educational and practical resources of which both aspiring women entrepreneurs and investors to take advantage. We want to be part of the process of change here at ICSB, and we hope our WE Conference is a blueprint for additional resources for women that creates space for them to thrive and be autonomous in the evolving business ecosystem. As Cecilia Tham declared at the WE conference, “Success is not defined by others, it’s how we want to be.”

ICSB congratulates and warmly thanks the WE Conference Chairs: 

  • Shoroke Zedan, Partner, Envisage Consulting, Egypt
  • María Fernanda Andrés, C-Level Executive / Chief Business Developer at Aceleradora Litoral, Argentina
  • Inés Gabarret, Associate Dean at ESSCA School of Management, France
  • Diah Yusuf, Founder at Indonesia Prima, Indonesia
  • Analia Pastran, Founder and Executive Director of Smartly Social Entrepreneurship on the SDGs, USA
  • Vicki Stylianou, Head of advocacy and policy at Institute of Public Accountants, Australia

Article by:
Ayman El Tarabishy
Deputy Chair, Department of Management, GW School of Business
President & CEO of ICSB