Senior U.S. Diplomats and Business Leaders in India Participate in Regional Roundtable on Women’s Economic Empowerment Hosted by WEConnect International

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Roundtable Targeted Supplier Diversity and Inclusion for Women-Owned Businesses in South Asia

WEConnect International hosted a regional roundtable that included Chargé D’Affaires Patricia A. Lacina of the U.S. Embassy to India, the U.S. Department of State, and more than 85 local and multinational business leaders to present research findings on the status of women-owned businesses in corporate value chains in South Asia. The research provided insights as to why so few women-owned businesses win contracts from corporate buyers. 

The research was compiled by WEConnect International for its “Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion” project funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. The results drew from an ecosystem study on women-owned businesses in India, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka, and also looked for ways to improve linkages between corporate buyers and women-owned and -led small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across India and global markets. Key findings presented at the roundtable included: 

  • Women contribute to 18% of India’s GDP, one of the lowest proportions in the world; advancing women’s equality in India is expected to boost GDP by US$770 billion by 2025 (The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in India 2018, McKinsey Global Institute). 
  • To boost trade linkages in India, 75% of corporate buyers recommend women-owned businesses ensure all industry standards are met, 53% said they should register as a preferred supplier, and 31% recommended participation in sourcing events, RFPs and RFQs.
  • In Bangladesh, the corporate buyers said 52% do not source from women-owned businesses, 29% said they do procure from women-owned businesses, and 19% said they do not know if their corporation buys from women-owned businesses.
  • In Maldives, 67% of the women-owned businesses said they have not done business with large buyers and over half (53%) of the large buyer participants said they want to learn more about the business case for gender-inclusive sourcing.
  • In Sri Lanka, government sources estimate that small and medium enterprises account for 80% of all businesses in the country with women owning an estimated 25% of them (Ministry of National Human Resources and Employment Policy), and the vast majority (86%) of the women-owned businesses that participated in the research do not have contracts with large corporate buyers.

“An investment in women and girls is an investment in our future prosperity,” said Chargé D’Affaires Patricia A. Lacina. “Private companies also play an important role in promoting women’s economic empowerment.”  

WEConnect International is a global non-profit that helps women-owned businesses compete in the global marketplace through capacity development and connections to large buyers seeking women suppliers.

“WEConnect International conducted this research to explore the needs and constraints of women-owned businesses including the attitudes, views and policies of corporate buyers, current legal frameworks, and local market opportunities,” said Eroshan Alagaretnam, Regional Director-South Asia, WEConnect International. 

The research was conducted over a 12-week period and the full report will be published in November 2021. 

Roundtable participants included world leaders in gender inclusive sourcing such as Cisco, IBM, ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson, BNY Mellon, Marriott International, JP Morgan Chase & Co, and UNICEF. Local businesses that participated in the Roundtable included Shree Apparels, Capgemini India, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Shashya Prabartana, Finlays, Tech Mahindra Foundation, and many others.

According to Jennifer Larson, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State- SCA, “This conversation represents a convergence of two key priorities for U.S. foreign policy in South Asia – the United States’ efforts to secure supply chains across the region and the advancement of gender equality and women’s economic participation.  Women-owned businesses are critical targets of opportunity. Globally, less than one percent of the 1 trillion dollars spent by the largest corporations around the world each year go to women entrepreneurs.”

Media Inquiries: Eroshan Alagaretnam, Regional Director – South Asia, WEConnect International

About WEConnect International 

WEConnect International is a member-led, global non-profit that brings motivated, large corporate, multilateral and government buyers together with qualified women-owned suppliers around the world. It works with over 140 multinational buyers, with more than $1 trillion in annual purchasing power combined, that have committed to sourcing more products and services from women-owned businesses based in over 125 countries. WEConnect International identifies, educates, registers and certifies women’s business enterprises based outside of the U.S. that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more women. For more information, visit

For more information or media interviews, please contact, Rebecca Pearson, Chief Marketing Officer, at or +1-703-297-5113. 

For corporate membership, contact Michael Tobolski, VP of Member Development, , or online at Membership Opportunities.

For details on Registering your Women-Owned Business or becoming a certified Women Business Enterprise, please contact 

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