This IWD, let's celebrate the resilience of women-owned businesses in APAC

Before the pandemic, women entrepreneurs already faced more obstacles when launching a business than their male peers

This International Women’s Day, cultivating resilience in all forms – structural, financial, educational, and emotional – is the need of the hour, says Beth Ann Lim, the director of policy programs and government outreach at Facebook.

Two years into the pandemic, the world continues to grapple with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and businesses are still trying to recover. Though businesses the world over have been hit hard by the pandemic, women-led businesses have experienced disproportionately negative effects.

According to the Global State of Small Business Report, women-led small businesses faced more closures and lower sales performance than businesses led by men, with 20% of women-led businesses and 16% of men-led businesses reporting closures[1]. Beyond this, the report also found that women were not as optimistic about the future of their business as their male peers, and as the results of a survey from the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women showed that one in 10 respondents said the impact of the pandemic was the single greatest challenge they had ever faced[2].

Women-led SMBs deserve a level playing field

Before the pandemic, women entrepreneurs already faced more obstacles when launching a business than their male peers, from finding mentors to raising capital[3]. Now with the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic compounding these barriers to entry, the need to promote gender equality and drive economic empowerment among women-led businesses is more important than ever.

This is why this year’s International Women’s Day theme – #BreakTheBias – and goal to encourage people around the world to envision a gender-equal world that is free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, is particularly relevant and resonant.

Women-led SMBs inspire, every day

While this is a challenging time, we are inspired every single day by the astonishing resilience of women business owners. So this International Women’s Day and throughout March, we’re celebrating the grit and resilience of women entrepreneurs across the Asia Pacific.

In our upcoming episode of the Forward Together series on ‘Empowering Women’, we will shine a light on the business and community leaders across the region who are driving positive social impact through our platforms. This includes the stories of Zerin Tasmin Khan, founder/designer of 6 Yards Story, Nadine Angelica Gadia-Casino, founder of ALIMA Mother Support Center, and Mar Pages, co-founder of Solo Female Travelers.

Additionally, we’ve launched the #BuyFromHer campaign to inspire and encourage people to shop from women-led businesses across APAC. The featured SMBs include Trixie de Guzman, Founder of bag and accessory company, Genuinely Everywhere; Lucia Dina Alisa, Founder of the clothing company, Lori Fashion, and Mindy Jen, Founder of Bubble Tea business, BOBA ChiC.

Throughout March, we are also challenging Instagram users to create a Reel highlighting their favorite women-owned businesses, share it with their followers, and encourage others to shine a light on the female entrepreneurs they love, too.

Women-led SMBs deserve a supportive community

At Meta, we remain committed to supporting women entrepreneurs around the world by helping them unlock their potential and creating a more resilient, inclusive, and equal society.

One of the key pillars of our #SheMeansBusiness program is to cultivate the growth of women-owned small businesses by providing access to curated education and training so that women can not only grow their businesses but thrive.

Research has shown that women-led businesses tend to have weaker economic performance, are often smaller and less profitable than businesses owned by male peers, grow more slowly, and have high closure rates. To this end, we’ve focused on helping women-led businesses gain financial resilience and literacy through our #SheMeansBusiness program.

Our program aims to connect women-owned small businesses, and with organizations that support their success. Seeing as women are more likely than men to be pushed into entrepreneurship due to economic necessity such as lack of jobs or insufficient family income – we believe that fostering communities of women business owners can help them receive encouragement and camaraderie from like-minded peers.

In the last year, we’ve partnered with 18 community organizations and government partners to conduct more than 275 training sessions for over 20,000 women entrepreneurs. The training includes a dedicated curriculum on business and financial resilience that was developed and piloted in the Asia Pacific.

Women-led SMBs can be resilient if given the right support and connectivity

Lastly, we believe it is essential that we celebrate the grit and resilience of women-owned businesses through inspiring influencers and uplifting stories. After all, many of these companies have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic – especially those in the women-dominated service industries including tourism, hospitality, fashion, and retail sectors.

Many of these sectors were forced to shut down, and as a result, women were often shifted into new, unrelated industries. Apart from navigating a new work environment, some of these women carry the additional burden of working from home and taking care of their families, adding even more for them to manage day today.

Women-led SMBs are essential

This International Women’s Day, cultivating resilience in all forms – structural, financial, educational, and emotional – is the need of the hour. At Meta, we believe women-led businesses are vital to the broader economy and that cultivating resilience depends on the collaborative efforts of stakeholders including SMBs, policymakers, and communities to help all women-led businesses improve, adapt and overcome the challenges they face.

As the economies around the world work toward recovery, women-led SMBs mustn't be left behind. These savvy business leaders deserve the support and opportunities required to help them flourish.

Beth Ann Lim is the director of policy programs and government outreach at Facebook