The 2016 Marketplace of WEConnect International was held on December 8th in Shenzhen, China. Top management and senior procurement representatives of WEConnect Corporate Members, global and local women organizations and outstanding women entrepreneurs gathered together and brainstormed on a series of topics including strategies for women entrepreneurs and corporations to forge cooperation opportunities with multinational corporations, practices to coach women on entrepreneurial prowess and ways to elevate the status of women in both business and society as a whole. Vice President of WEConnect International Greta Schettler, Executive Director of WEConnect International Greater China Su Cheng Harris-Simpson, Consul General of the United States of America Consulate General in Guangzhou, China Charles Bennett, Executive Vice President of China Association of Women Entrepreneurs Jiang Hua, and Senior Programme Officer of UN Women China Office Ma Leijun attended this marketplace and made speeches.  

The Annual Marketplace of WEConnect International aims to offer an effective platform for women owned businesses to introduce their products and services to renowned multinational corporations. It also provided a chance to give awards to corporations and organizations that have dedicated to promoting the growth of women-owned businesses and to those women’s business enterprises that have achieved remarkable growth in the past year. WEConnect International in China Annual Marketplace has been held for five consecutive years since 2012. The 2016 Marketplace has won significant support from many institutions and organizations including the United States of America Consulate General in Guangzhou, China, UN Women, China Association of Women Entrepreneurs, Hangzhou Association of Women Entrepreneurs, and the American Chamber of Commerce in South China. More than 300 WEConnect International Corporate Members, representatives of women entrepreneurs around the country and leaders of different fields have actively participated in the marketplace.  

In the welcoming speech, Greta Schettler, the Vice President of WEConnect International stated “Globally the economic power and potential of women is equivalent to the economic might of China or India.  By closing the global gender gap in the labor force participation, the global GDP could rise by US$28 trillion by the year 2025.  Women entrepreneurs are powerful engines of growth and innovation.  As their economic empowerment increases whole communities benefit.  Women reinvest more of their earnings into their families, education, local resources and health.”  

“The main challenge women entrepreneurs are facing now is the lack of financial and service resources. WEConnect International in Greater China cooperates with our global corporate members to provide Chinese women entrepreneurs with guidance and training according to the specific challenges they are facing. We provide a platform to connect women-owned businesses to the corporate supply chain to help them grow.” said Su Cheng Harris-Simpson, the Executive Director for WEConnect International in Greater China.  

The theme of this year’s marketplace “Empower Women Intentionally” is intended to explore strategies to elevate women’s status and economic self-reliance from three aspects: buying from women, support and guide women’s career development and empower women intentionally. Representatives from Walmart, Accenture, Cummins, IBM, Intel, Marriott and Hilton were invited to the panel discussions in the morning session to share their experiences in helping women’s business development, through supplier diversity and inclusion efforts and directly collaborating with women owned businesses. Buying from women not only provides companies with additional benefits in terms of innovation and creating a strong customer base, it also increases the economic health and stability of the community in which they operate. Schettler highlighted that “one of the main things limiting the growth of women owned businesses is the access to greater market opportunities that allow them to scale their business and access to information and networks.  It is forums like this that shift that paradigm and deliver real results.”    

Another highlight of the 2016 Marketplace was the discussion moderated by DELL Inc.’s Diversity& Inclusion Lead of Asia Pacific& Japan (APJ) Sophie Guerin. Consul General of the United States of America Consulate General in Guangzhou Charles Benneth, EY(China) Partner and China South Risk Leader Sunny Chow, Walmart China Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs David Fu, UN Women China Office Senior Programme Officer Ma Leijun participated in the panel discussion. They exchanged ideas on how should male leaders promote gender equality through policy making, advancement of work process and creation of a support system. Getting a fresh look at female leaders is an important part of building an inclusive and diverse corporate culture in a society that is rapidly developing as it is today. The experiences these multinational corporations shared would be of great significance for the future development of other corporations.

During the luncheon, Chief Merchandising, Marketing & Supply Chain Officer of Walmart China Marybeth Hays, Vice President of P&G China Yunsong Gao and Vice President of Sales& Marketing Group of Intel co. Rui Wang gave speeches and shared their stories of being female leaders. Although their experiences can not be fully replicated, they would be good references for women who are planning for their own future. Awards were also granted during the luncheon to multinational corporations and women- owned businesses that did extraordinary jobs in 2016. Walmart China, Walmart Global Sourcing, Hilton, Intel co., Accenture, Amway-Artistry, Dell, Marriott, IBM, Hawaiian Airlines, Cummins, Hangzhou Women Entrepreneur Association, Deya Culture Group and China Golden Bridge Technology& Services were among those awarded.

With more and more women-owned business joining in, WEConnect International in China is becoming increasingly influential. With the support of its corporate partners, WEConnect International will continue its dedication in improving the development of women-owned business and the effective communication between multinational corporations in China. P&G will collaborate with WEConnect International to deliver professional skills training for women entrepreneurs. The program will be co-designed by P&G and WEConnect International to provide a rich mix of theory and practice. Through this program, members of WEConnect International will build close relationship both among each other and with P&G.

Read the original article (in Chinese).