26 Mar Inclusive & Sustainable Development Through Gender Equality
Transformative Interventions in SMEs through Gender Focused Entrepreneur Ecosystem Development and the Gender Equality Scorecard©
SEAF pursues gender equality and women economic empowerment to deliver on its mission of “Improving Lives and Communities through Entrepreneur-Focused Investment” as the organization understands the critical role of SMEs as levers of change in a country’s economic development. Building on its legacy of creating value for SMEs in emerging markets, SEAF knows that investment capital alone is not enough to help these companies grow. It is also critical to develop, connect, and professionalize a larger ecosystem of SMEs, particularly those in early stages, in order for them to be able to compete for the limited pool of available equity capital.
Women entrepreneurs face complex barriers that limit their ability to start and grow their businesses, including access to finance and technology, low levels of financial and digital literacy, lack of opportunities for capacity development and discriminatory sociocultural norms. They also react to business challenges differently from their male counterparts. For example, women entrepreneurs in some ASEAN countries experience some of the highest fear of failure rates, particularly in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, where more than 50% percent of women entrepreneurs experience this fear. These women tend to limit themselves, stifling their innovation, growth expectations, and equity investments.1 There is a need to specifically design gender-focused entrepreneur and ecosystem development programs to address challenges unique to women entrepreneurs.
SEAF’s development arm, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development (CEED), develops and connects entrepreneurs who want to grow as leaders, build their companies and give back to their communities. Building a community of entrepreneurs is paramount to the approach of CEED and a necessary component of a successful entrepreneur ecosystem.
The organization provides growth-oriented entrepreneurs stage-appropriate capacity building training, access to multiple sources of capital, and connections to new markets across the SEAF and CEED platform. While providing these services, the organization focuses on strengthening local entrepreneur ecosystems by organically creating ‘a community’ of like-minded entrepreneurs who face similar challenges and assume similar risks as they build their business. More than 45,000 entrepreneurs have participated in CEED’s programs and networking events since founding in 2007.
CEED is committed to ensuring that its program includes and empowers women entrepreneurs. Gender inclusion is a consistent priority for CEED, where globally, 46% of its members are women. As part of the organization’s commitment to ensuring gender parity through each of its programs, CEED is integrating SEAF’s Gender Equality Scorecard© (GES©).
The SEAF Gender Equality Scorecard© (“GES©”) is a proprietary tool SEAF developed to assess women’s economic empowerment and gender equality within potential investment opportunities and SEAF portfolio companies. This rating system is structured around six gender equality vectors, each outlined to the right.
SEAF’s Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) team assists fund managers and CEED directors in implementing the GES© throughout their respective investment and development processes, providing them with the resources needed to, assist companies along the development cycle to improve gender equality practices and to build out a sustainable framework to ensure that companies can carry on their Women’s Economic Empowerment practices in a fully integrated manner.
Founder of SEAF portfolio company Phuong Chau Hospital, Dr. Ho and some of her team
Integrating the Gender Equality Scorecard© within SEAF and CEED
SEAF is incorporating the GES© into CEED’s entrepreneurial and ecosystem development programs to provide a variety of tools, resources, and guidance to effectively support companies in their gender equality efforts. In addition to the various uses of the GES© listed above, the scorecard will also guide to CEED as it works to define best practices in the implementation of its gender equality efforts.
CEED, as a part of SEAF, can utilize the knowledge gained since the inception of GES© to better utilize the tool and use it effectively. Using the scorecard to recruit entrepreneurs, CEED expects to achieve a minimum of 50% women participation in the program. Part of this approach will include the integration of female business owners into the peer groups to allow them to start building the critical relationships needed for successful business development. Integrated peer groups are important because isolating women participants in women-only groups only serve to further silo them from their male counterparts further hindering their ability to learn from them.
This inclusive approach is a critical component to the development of women-led and operated enterprises. CEED has found, through member feedback, that gender integration is an important factor in the success of female entrepreneurs. Vietnamese women entrepreneurs, for example, have identified their lack of access to opportunities and business networks as a key hindrance to their business development. Taking this approach of integrating women into existing networks and institutions is the only way to help mitigate this challenge for women entrepreneurs.
Beyond Integration, CEED will use the scorecard to help their entrepreneurs gain a holistic view of their Gender Equality practices. From leadership and governance, to pay equality and benefits, through supply chain management, the GES© will provide the framework through which CEED can work with its members to improve practices.
Building Value Through Shaping GES© Gender Equality Performance
Photos above are of female founders/entrepreneurs at SEAF portfolio companies (from left to right): Tram Ho, co-founder of KYNA, Ms. Pham Phuong Thao of Organica and Theresa Buenaflor of Ellana Cosmetics.