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Strengthening Women Entrepreneurs

by: Ma. Aurora D. Geotina-Garcia, FICD


Institute of Corporate Directors

Ms. Ma. Aurora D. Geotina-Garcia highlights the critical need for gender-specific policies to support Women-owned/led MSMEs (WMSMEs) in the Philippines, addressing challenges like limited access to credit and digital economy barriers. For detailed insights into policy recommendations and the implementation of the Policy Toolkit, access the full article here (click me) or read below.


In a column entitled “The journey of MSMEs: Are we there yet?,” I discussed the challenges that MSMEs — Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises — face in their entrepreneurial journey and proposed recommendations for policy makers. This follow-up will focus on Women-owned/led MSMEs (WMSMEs).

On Dec. 29, 2022, the MSME Development Council (MSMEDC), chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), adopted the following definition of WMSMEs:

Women-owned businesses are businesses where at least 51% of the company is owned by a woman or women.

Women-led businesses are businesses where at least 20% is owned by a woman or women; AND at least one woman acts as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), or Chief Operating Officer (COO), or President or Vice-President; AND at least 30% of the Board of Directors is composed of women.

This is a significant milestone for WMSMEs, as the absence of a formal definition and lack of sex-disaggregated data, which can enable women to access financial products and services, grants and other benefits available, may hinder the growth of women’s entrepreneurship. The absence of disaggregated data impedes the formulation of evidenced-based and responsive policy measures, programs, projects, and activities of the public and private sectors which can support access to finance, markets, networks, technology, and digitalization.

While national level disaggregated data is currently unavailable, in its 2019 List of Establishments, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recorded over 1 million business enterprises operating in the country with 99.5% being MSMEs. The same year, the DTI recorded a total of 630,688 business name registrations of which 55.8% were women-owned/led. Further, DTI data from 2019 revealed that 64% of the MSMEs assisted by its Negosyo Centers were women owned or led. The National Association of Training Centers for Cooperatives (NATCCO) noted that 64% of the 5.8M individual members of coops are women.

Policy Toolkit on Strengthening Women’s Entrepreneurship

The United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), under the Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship (CWE) Program, in partnership with the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME), initiated the “Policy Toolkit on Strengthening Women Entrepreneurship in National MSME Policies and Action Plans.” The project aims to advocate for women entrepreneur-centric policies and initiatives in the ASEAN region and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystems that foster women’s entrepreneurship.

The Toolkit helps policymakers evaluate and enhance women’s entrepreneurship in national MSME policies, providing guidance through its framework and methodology. It may assist regulatory bodies, financial institutions, and business associations in understanding the policies required to advance women’s entrepreneurship.

Toolkit Pilot in the Philippines

Within the ASEAN, the Philippines was chosen as the pilot country for the implementation of the Toolkit. The process began with an orientation workshop on Feb. 1, followed by two intensive workshops where participants conducted a self-assessment. The Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN) is the only private sector member of the Steering Committee, which includes government agencies involved in MSME development. The assessment using the Toolkit revealed challenges faced by Filipina entrepreneurs, including limited access to credit and skills, difficulty in navigating the digital economy, compliance issues with program requirements, and the added responsibilities of childcare and household duties while running a business.

What then must the government do to address these challenges? The workshops noted some recommendations worthy of consideration:

Policymakers need to implement and enforce existing laws and policies which have been designed to support WMSMEs and design new policies which will enhance their capacity to contribute significantly to the economy;

Intentional and deliberate support for women entrepreneurship should be provided, possibly through a National Strategy for Women Entrepreneurship;

Data on MSMEs should be segregated by gender, age, industry, and location, with government agencies aligning their definitions and data collection systems;

Measurable KPIs and targets should be established, and efficient monitoring and evaluation systems should be implemented;

Government should intensify information and awareness programs for WMSMEs and facilitate access to available programs and services; and,

Collaboration among government agencies and private sector involvement should be strengthened, by institutionalizing the Policy Toolkit Steering Committee into the WMSME Development Committee with senior level GAD Focal Points and private sector representatives.

Why a Gender Lens in MSME Development? 

With women-owned and led businesses comprising at least 50% of MSMEs, and a Philippine population of almost 50% females, there is no question that women’s entrepreneurship should be supported and given the attention that it deserves.

Women can be financially empowered and independent if they are able to start, grow, and sustain their businesses. Filipino women entrepreneurs are committed to fostering inclusivity and diversity within the business ecosystem which can enhance overall productivity and innovation. Women entrepreneurs are resilient and, with adequate support, can navigate economic uncertainties and volatilities, like the global pandemic. When women entrepreneurs succeed, they are more likely to reinvest in their families for education, nutrition, health and well-being, and support communities by providing services and employment opportunities.

Studies show that $5 trillion is missing from Global GDP because of the gender gap in entrepreneurship, and that global GDP could rise by up to 6% if women and men participated equally in entrepreneurship. However, without proactive action, it will take at least a century before the world can achieve economic equality among men and women.

We cannot leave WMSMEs behind as the ripple effects of their success can contribute directly to the country’s economy and the local communities. The power of women entrepreneurs and their contributions to prosperity cannot be ignored. Shall we wait another century or take action now?


On May 07, 2024, “Strengthening women entrepreneurs” was published. It was authored by Ma. Aurora Geotina-Garcia, Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors.

You can read more about this article through this link:

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