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Strengthening women’s leadership roles in e-trade: Q&A with Arancha González

ITU News recently had the opportunity to speak with Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), to discuss the key roles of women in trade and how the ITC is advancing women’s leadership in e-trade through SheTrades initiative and EQUALS partnership.

1. How does ITC’s work help to support e-commerce and development efforts?

During the WSIS Forum in March 2018, ITC launched its new e-Trade for Impact strategy that focuses on using e-commerce and online platforms to foster inclusive growth. In the context of emerging technologies, online and social media platforms offer innovative routes to connect to markets, challenging the structure of global value chains.

E-Trade for Impact considers three areas: the first one is e-networks: which includes access to information, strategies, learning, and platforms on-line; the second one is e-entrepreneurship focused on growing entrepreneurial ability to capture digital business models’ and the third one is the e-commerce proper which looks at empowering Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in online marketplaces. But more important is how e-Trade is supporting men and women to connect to markets.

For example, partnering with ITC, Phyllis Mwangi, owner of an online flower shop in Kenya, created Tandao Commerce, a new e-commerce platform that is now revolutionizing how people shop and SMEs sell in Africa.

2. How is ITC supporting women’s economic empowerment through e-trade, specifically under the framework of the SheTrades initiative?

The SheTrades initiative has a goal of connecting 1 million women to international markets by 2020. SheTrades works with partners from governments, private sector companies, and international organizations, among others, across a series of 7 pillars of actions to better integrate women in global trade and investment. SheTrades also offers a free-to-use web and mobile application to help women connect to partners, buyers, and investors.

In 2017, eBay launched a partnership with SheTrades to help women entrepreneurs digitize their businesses. Over 50 selected participants are receiving one-on-one e-commerce coaching, support to digitize their products, and a free-of-charge eBay shop for one year. This partnership allows women business owners to reap immediate benefits from increased business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce exposure.

3. Can you discuss the opportunities for women’s participation in e-commerce?

Cross-border e-commerce already accounts for 12% of global goods traded and is expected to grow at twice the rate of domestic e-commerce. From ITC’s 2017 E-commerce Competitiveness Survey we know that over 80% of companies exporting internationally solely through e-commerce, are micro and small.

Women spend at least twice as much time on unpaid domestic and care work as men, which means the time they could spend on remunerated opportunities is reduced. This in turn means that a disproportionate number of women-owned businesses are micro or small. This is where e-commerce help level the playing field for women in business.

Only one in five firms in offline trade are women-owned SMEs, whereas four in five companies in cross-border e-commerce are women-owned. Providing access to digital skills and tools as well an affordable option to showcase products on-line can help women overcome restrictions and actively participate in the global market. In fact e-commerce opens up new business opportunities with the international market and potential for broad socio-economic impact, especially for women.

4. ITC is one of the co-founders of EQUALS, the Global Partnership for Digital Gender Equality. Why did you start this partnership and how are you supporting women’s economic empowerment through technology, and in particular e-commerce?

The EQUALS partnership was co-founded in 2016, bringing together public and private actors to help create an environment where women and girls can participate equally in the digital technology revolution through targeted efforts on access, skills, and leadership.

ITC is proud to head the EQUALS Leadership Coalition, which empowers women as ICT sector leaders, creators, and entrepreneurs by providing training, mentoring, and networking opportunities; facilitating access to finance; and addressing regulatory and policy barriers that limit women’s ability to monetize opportunities. The Leadership Coalition will work with partners to mobilize a professional network of women and offer training and mentoring opportunities on e-commerce.

Do you know a leading woman in tech? You can nominate her for the annual EQUALS in Tech Awards here.

For more information about EQUALS visit the website.


Arancha González, an expert in international trade issues with 20 years of experience, has served as Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) since September 2013.

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