Exclusive Interview: Arancha González for Women Inside Trade

It is with great pleasure that the team Women Inside Trade shares an exclusive interview with Arancha González, the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, for our blog.

Arancha González and the plattaform #SheTrades are among the most relevant inspiration to create this space and this group of fabulous women that work in the international trade field in Brazil and abroad. 

We hope the readers enjoy and feel the energy of this brilliant woman while reading her interview. Dear Arancha, no words to expresss our gratitude for your support! #wearemany

1) Dear Arancha, you are a true inspiration for many women here in Brazil. Can you share with us a little bit of your professional history?

I have devoted my professional live to trade and development in different capacities. First as a lawyer in private practice, advising companies on trade, investment and state aid matters. Then in the European Commission, conducting negotiations of trade agreements and assisting developing countries in trade-development efforts. Between 2002 and 2004, I was the European Commission spokeswoman for trade and adviser to the EU Trade Commissioner. I learned how important it is to communicate to the wider public how trade works and how to make it work better. Then came an unexpected turn in my professional life when the Director General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy asked me to serve as his Chief of Staff in Geneva. It was a real honour to become the first woman to hold this position since the organisation was born in 1948. It was an exciting period with active negotiations in the WTO and the launch of the Aid for Trade initiative, but also a period of turbulence with the 2008 financial crisis, which I saw first-hand as G20 Sherpa.  For the last four years, I have been serving as the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), the joint trade and development agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. In ITC we are proud to support SMEs to participate in international trade, translating opportunities that are generated through trade agreements into real trade on the ground. In 2015, I spearheaded the “SheTrades” initiative seeking to connect one million women entrepreneurs to markets by 2020. It is about making trade more inclusive but also about ensuring trade contributes to the economic empowerment of women. This is also why last December, during the WTO Ministerial Conference in Argentina, ITC together with a group of Geneva Gender Champions spearheaded the Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade. Over the next two years, we will be looking at best practices across the WTO membership to help connect more women entrepreneurs to trade opportunities.

2) Why is it important to talk about gender and trade? Why does it matter to everyone?

The answer is simple – when women trade, we all benefit. Economically empowering women is proven to translate into important socio-economic benefits for everyone – children, husbands, families, communities, companies and economies. Women who have control over how money is spent invest far more of their income than men do on their families’ health and education. Companies with greater gender diversity in senior positions usually deliver higher profits and stock market valuations. Countries that provide greater economic opportunities for women generally score higher in rankings of competitiveness and national income. Emerging firm-level evidence indicate that the exporter premium – the pay premium at exporting firms over non-exporters – is higher for women-owned businesses than for those owned by men. Moreover, it is estimated that if women participated in the economy on an equal footing with men, it would add about $28 trillion to global GDP by 2025 – more than a 25% increase over current trends. As someone once said, it is the economy, stupid!

3) How did SheTrades start and how it has impacted the life of women around the world?

In spite of these important benefits, nearly a billion women around the globe are either prevented from becoming full economic actors, or lack the skills or capital to do so. ITC’s own research shows that only one in five of exporting firms is owned by women. Other studies tell us that women-owned SMEs in emerging markets have unmet financing needs of between US$260 billion and US$320 billion a year. In fact, women in developing countries are 20 percent less likely than men to even have a bank account. Moreover, women entrepreneurs often lack support networks and access to information about export opportunities.

Since its creation in 1964, ITC has been working to help connect SMEs to markets. But given the specific challenges facing women in trade, in 2015, we launched the SheTrades initiative specifically targeted at supporting women-owned businesses. It provides a framework of collaboration for partners to scale up and accelerate the rate at which women entrepreneurs are able to fully participate in the global economy and use trade as a lever for economic resilience and transformation. SheTrades is about consolidating partnerships with public and private sector actors working to empower women and it is about helping to bridge the gap that exists between the offer from and demand for women-owned companies.

On a more granular level, SheTrades is about Phyllis and her online flower shop in Kenya, who, with the support of SheTrades, created Tandao Commerce, an e-commerce platform that is now revolutionizing how people shop and SMEs sell in Africa. SheTrades is about Charitha from Sri Lanka, who was able to create a sustainable luxury eco-tourism resort and close business deals with international travel agencies. It is about Fisun in Turkey, who developed radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to combat losses and improve the efficiency of her laundry business by being able to monitor 100s of thousands of individual items at the same time. SheTrades is also about Chiedza, founder of an Afro-Urban fashion line, who through SheTrades, has conquered European markets from her factory in Ghana. She has successfully grown her company from mirco to mass production and works with 99% local women artisan suppliers. Today, she even introduces us to her networks, financial institutions, and local support organizations to help us better support more women. It is a sign of impact when a beneficiary becomes a partner. And She Trades is also about the 6000 women in business that Apex Brazil in partnership with ITC is helping bring to markets.

4) We know that ITC/SheTrades has already a connection with ApexBrasil. What do you think is necessary for SheTrades to expand its activities in Brazil? What kind of engagement?

Brazil is the birthplace of SheTrades: we first unveiled the initiative at the Women Vendors Forum in Sao Paolo in September 2015. As a commitment to the SheTrades initiative, Apex-Brasil launched SheTrades in 2016. They have been and will be continuing to help Brazilian women entrepreneurs to understand and comply with export procedures as well as to prepare the women entrepreneurs to participate in international trade promotion events – including ITC’s upcoming SheTrades Global Business Conference in Liverpool during 26-28 June 2018.

ITC will continue to provide online tools and services to Brazilian women-owned businesses including through shetrades.com, webinars and business generation events. Looking ahead, expanded activities will include improving the knowledge of Brazilian women entrepreneurs on impact investment, delivering tailored capacity building for around 6.000 women-owned companies over the next 2 years; and providing support to access foreign markets and procurement networks.

5) Would you like to leave a message for the women inside trade in Brazil?

Yes, a call to action. There is no silver bullet to achieve women’s economic equality. In fact research shows that on current trend, gender equality will not happen for another 200 years. Whether you are a supplier, the manager of a company committed to a gender-inclusive supply chain, or simply an entrepreneur looking to make a contribution, join She Trades, commit, mobilise and act.

 


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