How Elizabeth Vazquez Connects Women-Owned Businesses to Global Markets
Recently, I spoke with Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO of WEConnect International, on the opportunity and significant potential for women business owners globally. In her role with WEConnect, Elizabeth is responsible for the vision, mission delivery, organizational growth for impact, and partner development in every region of the world. The WEConnect International network includes offices in 16 countries, and the corporate network represents over US $700 billion in annual purchasing power.
It was inspiring and uplifting to hear Elizabeth’s passion for empowering women through economic opportunity. I encourage you to join Elizabeth and other women’s economic empowerment leaders at our annual International Women's Day Forum, Turning Inspiration to Action: Next Steps for the Private Sector to Empower Women Globally on March 4 in New York City. Register today!
Q. What does WEConnect International do to empower women globally?
The mission of WEConnect International is to empower women business owners to succeed in global markets. We identify, educate, register, and certify women's business enterprises that are at least 51% owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women, and we are the only global nonprofit connecting women-owned businesses with multinational corporate purchasing organizations outside the U.S. There are over 220 million women-owned businesses starting or running around the globe, according to a recent GEM report. And yet, our research indicates that women-owned businesses earn less than 1% of the money spent on vendors by large corporations and governments. So there is a lot of room for progress.
Q. What has personally inspired you to become an agent of change for women’s empowerment?
My experience as a social entrepreneur made me realize that the integration of women suppliers into the global value chains of multinational corporations is a powerful channel to help women grow their companies, create jobs, and build communities. Spending time with corporate executives who are committed to global supplier development and inclusion is also inspiring because these world leaders are proving that corporations can do well while doing good when they focus on women’s economic empowerment.
Q. Where do you see the largest void in the most pressing issues for women around the world?
The most pressing issue for women is our lack of ownership of assets. Women own approximately 2% of the world’s assets. It is very difficult to build assets without assets, make money without money, leverage power without power. Money isn’t everything, but working to ensure that women entrepreneurs have an equal playing field to compete for contracts is a sustainable vehicle for increasing women’s assets, money and power. When women are empowered, they tend to empower everyone around them.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your work with citizenship and women’s empowerment?
The resilience, enthusiasm and perseverance of women business owners never ceases to amaze me. Regardless of the size of their capital and environmental conditions, women business owners demonstrate a remarkable determination to learn, improve and pursue their dream to scale their companies and position themselves as good business partners.
Q. What have you or your organization done that has been forward thinking and has inspired others?
There is abundant evidence that women’s economic participation is correlated to a country’s economic competitiveness. The vision of WEConnect International is to create a world in which women business owners enjoy the same opportunity as their male counterparts to prosper economically and actively contribute to the wellbeing of their communities. At present we are the only organization in the world that facilitates sustainable economic progress by linking big business to women entrepreneurs at the global level, with the help of many local and global partners.