When Danielle Thome was a teenager, she asked her father for a job. This is not unusual, especially since his father is the founder of Projex Engenharia, a successful business in Brazil. But the job focused on civil and industrial construction, an industry where a 15-year-old girl didn’t fit the typical job description, despite her passion for civil engineering. Although Tome eventually took over his father’s business, his path to success was paved with many challenges.
“One of the biggest problems I faced was the old gender discrimination problem,” Thome recalled years later. She is one of the many women who have been forced to lead businesses that reflect their passions in life.
Like other women entrepreneurs, she needed support. But where are the networks to help women turn their passions into successful businesses? Tome found his network in the SAP client. WEConnect International connects women-owned businesses with qualified buyers worldwide. With WEConnect International certification and a lot of hard work from Thomé and his team, Projex Engenharia’s revenue increased by an amazing 200% in just two years.
Lots of Problems, Big Potential Impact
Women who start and run businesses face unique challenges. Cultural and social norms or simply not being valued by investors can hinder their entrepreneurial efforts. The Harvard Business Review notes that “women are massively underrepresented among both venture-backed entrepreneurs and VC investors.” She adds that companies founded solely by women receive less than 3% of all venture capital investments.
Also, the pandemic has exacerbated the imbalance in unpaid care work—managing a household or caring for children and aging parents—that disproportionately affects women in work.
Women also have to deal with challenges other businesses face, including access to markets, information technology gaps, and red tape related to government programs designed to help new businesses.
However, despite these challenges, women-owned and women-led businesses offer the potential to make a significant impact on the global economy. The World Economic Forum (WEF) observed that “societies with more gender equality not only provide better socio-economic opportunities for women, but also develop faster and more equitably”.
The WEF also reports that increasing women’s employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP and boost economic productivity in some countries by up to 35%.
However, despite an open business case, the WEF sees global progress as stagnant.
Who has the power to change? All of us.
Traditionally, the procurement function within larger organizations has been empowered to fill gaps in the supply chain and build supplier networks. But today, other voices are making themselves heard. Consumers prefer to buy from women and other different businesses. Around the world – for example in the US, Australia and Canada – government regulations require increased diversity and inclusion.
In addition, the C-suite is redesigning corporate policy to reflect more sophisticated approaches to supplier selection. In my role as a customer officer, SAP Smart Spending and Business Networking, I see that business leaders are prioritizing inclusive sourcing metrics within their procurement strategies to help them access all the best suppliers in the world, not just the ones they always buy from.
Concerned about supply chain risks, procurement leaders are increasingly adopting localization strategies. When looking for new local suppliers, they also focus on inclusive sourcing. Of course, it is not easy to find different suppliers – even local ones. Many women-owned businesses are small businesses and not recognized in the business community. They often lack the communication technologies that would help create more visibility for the business.
How can we make it easier to connect enterprise buyers and women-owned businesses?
Creating Connections with SAP Technology
As president, CEO and co-founder of WEConnect International, Elizabeth Vazquez is a leader in women’s economic empowerment and global supplier diversity and inclusion. Through WEConnect International, she helps women around the world grow their businesses to create wealth, employ more people and contribute to the well-being of their communities.
Last week, he participated in a panel discussion during the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Discussions focused on opportunities to direct more corporate spending to women-owned businesses, not only to do good, but also to close gaps in the supply chain.
“Women-owned businesses are a valuable and underutilized resource,” she said. “The women who run these businesses understand what their communities need most and are in a unique position to address them. In the process, they are creating entirely new industries.”
WEConnect International recognizes that to compete in the global marketplace, women-owned businesses must be visible to potential customers. She developed the WECommunity platform, a global registry of women-owned businesses that makes it easy for shoppers to find women-owned suppliers.
Unfortunately, the original version of WECommunity was based on technology that provided a poor user experience, making it difficult to search the registry. WEConnect International needed a scalable, global solution that offered a seamless user experience in multiple languages for buyers and suppliers.
SAP Ariba Supplier Lifecycle and Performance solution and SAP Business Network more than met these criteria. As an added advantage, many buyers who were members of the WECommunity were already transacting on the SAP Business Network. SAP partner Premikati Inc., a women-owned business, was engaged to help implement SAP solutions.
In its first year, WECommunity’s enhanced functionality produced dramatic results:
- Buyer membership increased by 91%, purchasing power increased by $2 trillion.
- More than 6,000 women-owned enterprises have increased revenues and created 24,000 new jobs.
- More than 7,800 newly registered women’s businesses joined the database, an increase of 95%.
“By making it easier for women to register their businesses and for large buyers to find them, our online portal based on SAP Ariba Supplier Lifecycle and Performance solution, SAP Business Network and SAP Business Technology Platform helps women compete in the global market. Vazquez explained.
Do you remember Tomei, a teenage girl who wanted to work in her father’s construction business? Today, he is the owner-director of the business “Projex Engenharia” founded by his father.
As mentioned in a recent profile, Projex Engenharia won the WEConnect International Women’s Business Enterprise Certification. Thomé leveraged her global network of female suppliers and senior buyers to become a more confident and assertive leader.
The relationship also helped generate significant benefits for his business. In just six years, Projex Engenharia became a client of six large corporations. This has enabled the company to hire more people, ensure their safety and well-being, and support social, health and environmental campaigns.
SAP is committed to helping all customers achieve their diversity and equality goals. And it’s gratifying to know that our technology has become a valuable tool in making this happen.
Megan O’Connor is a customer officer for SAP Intelligent Spend & Business Network.