San Francisco, California and Bali, Indonesia, September 5, 2013 — According to the latest Asia Foundation report, women-owned firms in Asia face many barriers including finance, social factors, and business-related technologies, which disproportionately impact women-owned businesses and translate into a significant missed opportunity for economic growth.
Earlier this week, at a working group panel at the 2013 APEC meetings in Bali, The Asia Foundation launched a new report on barriers to women in business. The Foundation’s Carol Yost, Senior Director of Women’s Empowerment Programs, and Véronique Salze-Lozac’h, Chief Economist and Director, Economic Development led the Foundation delegation and presented the research findings to participants at the September 4-5 SME working group meeting which aims to foster an ‘internationalized’ business environment for SMEs.
SMEs serve as the backbone of developing Asian economies, comprising the majority of businesses in Asia, and women are key contributors to the SME workforce. In Indonesia, for example, SMEs employ more than 96 percent of the economy’s workforce, and women make up about one-third of SME ownership, a figure growing 8 percent annually.
The study, “Access to Trade and Growth of Women’s SMEs in APEC Developing Economies: Evaluating the Business Environment in Indonesia,” follows The Asia Foundation’s February 2013 report, commissioned by APEC, which explored factors limiting women’s entrepreneurship in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
“Our research recommendations are not a question of giving privileges to women, but a matter of ensuring women can contribute to the wealth of the countries,” said Véronique Salze-Lozac’h, Asia Foundation Chief Economist during the presentation. She added: “While men and women face similar barriers in running SMEs, women have a harder time achieving higher levels of SME development from the start and experience more difficulties in finding solutions to their barriers.”
The Indonesia research findings mirror many trends that emerged from the earlier study – emphasizing the consistency of barriers to women-run businesses across the region. Across the four economies surveyed, businesswomen cited high interest rates as the top challenge in the loan application process.
“There is an urgent need to streamline financial processes and help women join business associations and other support networks to help navigate business finance procedures,” said Asia Foundation’s Carol Yost, Senior Director of Women’s Empowerment Programs. “Women entrepreneurs would benefit from technical assistance in writing business plans that would be acceptable to financial institutions in securing credit. Our study highlighted the need to streamline the loan application process and make it more user friendly in order for more business women to apply for loans.”