International Women’s Day 2021: Covid recovery must promote women in business or risk a less equal and inclusive world

Anita Tiessen
Anita Tiessen Chief Executive Officer Youth Business International

While there have been great strides towards equality in business over recent years, at the start of the pandemic it was estimated that only one in three businesses around the globe are owned by women.

Recessions have a habit of hitting women harder than men, and as the crisis continues to shatter economies and disrupt working patterns it is women who once again bear the brunt of the impact. A recent McKinsey study estimated that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more likely to be cut as a result of COVID-19 compared to those held by men.

This International Women’s Day is an opportunity to focus on redoubling our efforts to support women, and particularly young female entrepreneurs, to ensure the pandemic doesn’t force them further behind their male counterparts. It’s not straightforward though – women and men don’t always require the same support.

Women are overwhelmingly more likely to be employed in the informal sector or run small and micro businesses compared to men. These jobs with typically tight margins are particularly vulnerable to economic downturn, while government bailouts and support schemes tend to be tailored to larger corporations.

Women also carry more than their fair share of family responsibility. According to a survey, carried out by a group of women’s organisations across the UK including Women’s Budget Group and the Fawcett Society, twice as many women as men have taken time out to care for children following school closures.

Ensuring that women’s rights are central to the COVID recovery is crucial to kickstart and refuel the global economy according to the World Bank and the World Economic Forum. At YBI we know that micro, small and medium businesses have a crucial role to play in economic recoveries post-COVID and ensuring support for a diverse range of young entrepreneurs will contribute towards a richer, more varied, and more resilient economy for everyone. And with the right support female-led businesses can continue to thrive during the pandemic.

Neelima from India is a great example of a young entrepreneur who is challenging gender norms and whose business has overcome adversity to thrive over the past year.

When Neelima became pregnant it didn’t spell the end of her career – but the start of her entrepreneurial journey. Medical difficulties in pregnancy led her to discover the health benefits of coconut milk and she launched her business selling dairy and preservative-free drinks and milkshakes. It was going from strength to strength and she had just invested all her profits into a store in a prime location when the pandemic hit and bankruptcy loomed.

With the support of YBI member Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST), Neelima transformed digitally and took her sales online, saving her businesses. With the support of her mentor she also identified an opportunity to launch a new product – an immunity-boosting drink perfect for those looking to protect themselves from the virus. This best-selling product has seen her sales soar and she’s now expanding to pan-India sales.

Women entrepreneurs have a crucial role to play in economic recoveries post-COVID and ensuring supporting a diverse range of young entrepreneurs will contribute towards a richer, more varied, and more resilient economy for everyone.  

So, join our IWD campaign to promote women in business and help us create a more equal and inclusive world – together.

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