The UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator joins forces with WE Empower, co-led by ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory™ and Vital Voices

The Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator (WEA) hosted a pivotal UNGA virtual side-event, “Joining Forces to Drive Change,” in September 2021 to celebrate their 2nd anniversary. WEA was established during UNGA 75 by six United Nation agencies: International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Trade Centre (ITC), United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP), UN Global Compact (UNGC), UN Development Programme (UNDP), and UN Women, along with private-sector partner Mary Kay with the goal to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2030.

Along with our formal partnerships announcement between WEA and WE Empower, below are our favorite takeaways and calls to action from the event. 

Meral Guzel, Partnerships Manager, Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator at UN Women

The Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator is an impact initiative to drive change for women entrepreneurs. Its 4 foundational areas of work include:
- Digital Capacity Building Tools & Training
- Entrepreneurship Research & Policy
- Global & Regional Gender-Responsive Procurement
- Global & Regional Advocacy
✔ Meral’s action-item: Sign up for the complimentary ‘Online Entrepreneurship Certificate Program’ developed by our partner International Trade Centre. With over 200 videos, it covers 7 key stages of business development through 7 certificates.
▶Watch: “Joining Forces to Drive Change"

Amanda Ellis, WE Empower UN SDG Challenge co-chair & ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory:

“We are thrilled to celebrate our formal partnership with the UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator. Women entrepreneurs are valuable solutionaries for the UN SDGs and the global 2030 agenda, and the WEA unlocks a suite of valuable support tools to help amplify positive impact.”

✔ Amanda’s action-item: Check out the work of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator

Deborah Gibbens Chief Operating Officer, Mary Kay Inc.

“We know it’s only through innovation collaborations between all the stakeholders invested in women’s entrepreneurship, that we can have the transformative impact that we are all seeking,” says Deborah and calls for collaboration between the public and private sectors, and civil society to ‘join us.’

▶Watch: “Joining Forces to Drive Change"

Vinicius Pinheiro, Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at International Labour Organization

Vinicius Pinheiro speaks to the many industries unequally impacted that include higher percentages of women in their workforce, such as the service industry. “The recovery is creating more inequality,” Vinicius states, speaking to the growing sectors such as tech and the green sector and many more, disproportionately creating more jobs for men. He continues this is not to create gender divides nor to play the victim, but simply to bring to light the fact that, “We are losing talents, we are losing capabilities.”

▶Watch: “Joining Forces to Drive Change"

What the ILO is doing:

“We are working in designing a woman empowerment economic assessment that looks at what exactly are the issues on the table, mapping where they are, and providing the tools for inclusion. […] In Brazil and Mexico, we are doing exactly this, providing support to female entrepreneurship by improving knowledge, raising awareness and supporting institutional business development organizations to do that”.

  • The Latin America branch of Win-Win is empowering the creation of a network of 1,800 women entrepreneurs that result in business opportunities across Latin America and Europe.
  • The ILO has joined up with WEA to conduct entrepreneurial research and customized recommendations to inform policy makers, including the multi-dimensional impact of Covid-19.
  • The ILO is also working on strengthening advocacy for women’s entrepreneurship development in Mexico & Brazil

✔Vinicius’s action-item: “It is important to catalyze efforts.”

✔WE Empower suggests joining a women’s business networking group near you, today.

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director, International Trade Centre (ITC)

“Women play a critical role in driving economic development. When it comes to trade, we see that women-led businesses tend to grow their businesses faster and employ more people, which can contribute to economic growth, to innovation, to productivity, to poverty reduction and overall development,” says Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC).

▶Watch: “Joining Forces to Drive Change"

What the ITC is doing:

Pamela states that, “In March 2020 we began working on a strong contingency plan to support those (women) that have been severely impacted by the crisis, triggered by the pandemic. We partnered with leading organizations from the private sector to offer these women a practical guide to chart their paths through recovery. So together with UPS, Maersck, Visa and various capitol providers, we provided expert guidance and analysis on Covid’s impact on trade. We explained how SME’s can account for Covid in financial planning, how to implement crisis management approaches, and how to address changes in consumer behavior.

Also, as part of our efforts we gathered a cohort of partners from public and private sectors to offer a guide called Women Entrepreneurs an Action plan. And this assesses women as part of the recovery process, but also presents actionable recommendations for different stakeholder groups to support women’s entrepreneurship in the post Covid-19 era.”

The ITC is also running a “Digital Capacity Building Tools & Training” program, created for WEA which includes a SheTrades (ITC) Digital Curriculum with aim to teach women entrepreneurs the skills to design and set up viable businesses. It includes 27 interactive models covering 7 key stages of business development and over 200 videos.

✔Pamela’s action-item: Download “Women Entrepreneurs: An Action Plan to ‘Build Back Better.’” 

✔Pamela’s action-item: Sign up for the complimentary ‘Online Entrepreneurship Certificate Program’ at

Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director at United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)

“Economic impact could be the case for gender equality or supporting women in entrepreneurship has long been clear. I think women’s participation in leadership in business has proven essential to driving forward both economic and financial performance. Sometimes it almost seems a little bit frustrating that you have to put forth a business case or demonstrate the economic impact. It’s been often said in many antidotal speeches, ‘why would you do anything with only half of a team?’ You cannot give 100% when you don’t have 100% at the table. But be that as it may, a lot of statistics and a lot of figures really do point to the fact that female representation and gender equality does provide better financial returns and better opportunities for society as a whole,” says Sanda.

▶Watch: “Joining Forces to Drive Change"

✔Sanda’s action-item: Join the Global Compact (Business Owners)

What the UNGC is doing:

Sanda mentions their excitement of being in the strategy phase of potentially accepting microenterprises along with small and medium, women owned businesses into UNGC programs, along with a new burgeoning partnership with the ITC, “[…] we talked about ways in which our cohort of businesses and their cohort of businesses could collaborate on issues that deal with business, trade, growing entrepreneurship, and I really look forward to developing a partnership with the ITC where we can work in support of more women and women owned businesses as a whole.”

Sanda also mentions the UNGCs’ important work with the UN Women for the past decade including the Women’s Empowerment Principals, Target Gender Equality Program, while setting ambitious targets for women’s representation in leadership, management, participation, and decision making.

✔Sanda’s action-item:  Read the UN Secretary-General’s report on “Our Common Agenda

Anita Bhatia, Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director at UN Women

“I’ve stopped saying building back better, because I worry about building back the same old ossified structures that we had before. And I do think that this crisis is an opportunity to do things differently, which is why I have taken to saying, ‘building forward, differently’, versus ‘building back, better’ because we don’t really want to go back.” Anita Bhatia, Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director at UN.

▶Watch: “Joining Forces to Drive Change"

What UN Women are doing:

Anita speaks to many UN Women initiatives, including support for gender-responsive procurement, a vital stage where many female entrepreneurs experience discrimination, notable in both developed and developing economies. Anita mentions they work to support the ‘care economy,’ which they (UN Women) were ahead of the curve in flagging as an issue. They support these systemic and structural barriers through the Generation Equality initiative and the Global Alliance for Care. And finally, this panel was created by the team in partnership with the many vital partners involved.

  • UN Women and UNGC identified Gender-Responsive Procurement (GRP) advocacy and training as a major area with transformational potential for women entrepreneurs. Together, they are engaging stakeholders from the private sector, surveying over 50 companies across sectors on GRP, and are creating a suite of business cases for GRP through an evidence-based advocacy report.
  • December 2021: UN Women Europe and Central Asia will launch innovative pilot program to increase capacities of women entrepreneurs in the private sector, “Gender Responsive Procurement and Investment” with aim to increase procurement capabilities of women entrepreneurs to compete for bidding opportunities with public and private sectors. They will also work to strengthen the capacities of the private sector entities from all sectors to establish policies and practices and design initiatives on gender responsive procurement and investment.

✔Anita’s action-item: Check out the Policy Briefs from UN Women here.

Watch Joining Forces to Drive Change to learn what is being done to support women's entrepreneurship – along with what actions you can take to encourage this vital economic ecosystem to flourish.

About the WEA– A multi-stakeholder partnership initiative to untap the potential of women's entrepreneurship. They aim to build an economic ecosystem that fosters growth, sustainability and resilience for women entrepreneurs, established in 2019 during the UNGA.

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University represents the urgent belief that we can and must make a meaningful contribution to ensuring a habitable planet and a future in which well-being is attainable. The Global Futures Laboratory is the world’s first comprehensive laboratory dedicated to the empowerment of our planet and its inhabitants so that all may thrive. For more information visit