ISO/IWA 34 – Definition of a ‘Woman‐Owned Business’ and guidance on its use
The Swedish Institute for Standards (SIS) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) invited all interested stakeholders to join the development of an ISO International Workshop Agreement (IWA) on how to define a "woman-owned business". By developing a commonly agreed upon definition, we aim to lower entry barriers for women business owners to public and private procurement opportunities, and increase their access to capacity‐building programmes, incentives schemes and certification programmes.
What we aim for with IWA 34
The purpose of this IWA is to provide a definition of a woman‐owned business and guidance to businesses, statistical agencies, governments and international initiatives on how the definition can be used.
Creating a definition of a woman‐owned business and guidance on its use will allow for clear and targeted efforts in advancing women’s economic empowerment and will contribute to the overall achievement of the 2030 Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including several gender specific targets under SDG 5 on Gender Equality.
In the long term, the development of an IWA on a woman‐owned business may spur a broader discussion and additional efforts towards further standardisation work on gender equality and related topics. Over time, a standard definition will facilitate the collection of internationally comparable data on women’s entrepreneurship and the impact on local and national economies.
A digital workshop process
This IWA was developed in a completely digital process. Before the first workshop, a couple of preparatory web meetings were held to give information regarding the process. Also, an initial analysis was performed and circulated to registered participants by end of July 2020. The Summer was used to collect initial input, which aimed to help us prepare for the first workshop and in developing a first draft text. Between the workshops there was commenting via correspondence, complemented by one or more web meeting(s). The exact plan for time between the two workshops depended on the outcome from the first workshop. After the final workshop, the text was edited and prepared for publishing. The published IWA could then be purchased via national standards bodies. All the dates can be found in the list below:
Initial analysis available on 31st July 2020
Opportunity to provide initial input online – until 23rd August 2020
Preparatory web meetings held between July and September 2020
All material for the first workshop, including first draft, circulated September 25th at the latest
Registration deadline first workshop September 30th 2020
First workshop 14-16 October 2020 (online)
Updating of the draft by ITC and SIS based on the discussions at the workshop
There was still considerable variations in the definitions used to describe businesses owned or led by women, and the titles and percentage of ownership, management and control that entrepreneurial women are expected to have under various definitions. This created a series of challenges across the women entrepreneurial ecosystem with regard to research, the collection of sex-disaggregated data, evidence-based policymaking and international comparability, as well as capacity building and access to finance and to markets.
The absence of clear and universally agreed upon definitions concerning women-owned and women-led businesses have complicated strategies for women’s enterprise development at both the national and global levels. Examples include: the inability of governments to collect strong sex-disaggregated data at the national level that can be used for evidence-based policymaking, and ensure international comparability; and inadequate understanding of women entrepreneurial gaps with regard to money, management and markets.
The goal of this project and document is to rationalize the numerous variations in definitions, develop consensus on key terminology.
The ITC and SIS sought to achieve the following objectives through the IWA process:
Foster agreement on one or more definitions to facilitate the collection and use of sex-disaggregated data and development of evidence-based policymaking in women’s entrepreneurship;
Provide consistent and internationally comparable data for measuring the growth of women’s entrepreneurship
Utilize a broader definition in procurement and international trade policies to ensure that buyers can gain access to the women-owned firms they want to source from;
Accelerate women’s enterprise development globally, and the capacity of women-owned and women-led businesses in developed, developing and transition economies.
The process for developing an IWA
An IWA is an ISO document produced through a workshop meeting rather that through the full ISO technical committee process. Market players and other stakeholders directly participate in developing an IWA and do not have to go through a national delegation. This means that it is a quick way to obtain a recognized ISO document, the process should not take more than 12 months in total. The process is designed to be flexible and is largely decided by the proposing organization.
About ISO and SIS
If you are interested to know more about ISO, please visit their website, www.iso.org
The Swedish Institute for Standards, SIS, is the Swedish member of ISO. More information about SIS can be found on this website, www.sis.se/en
The International Trade Centre (ITC) is a joint agency of the United Nations and World Trade Organization based in Geneva. ITC’s mission is to enable small business export success in developing and transition‐economy countries, by providing, with partners, sustainable and inclusive development solutions to the private sector, trade support institutions (TSIs) and policymakers. ITC collaborates with the private sector, development community, governments, academia and women’s business associations on a blueprint of seven global actions to unlock markets and create an enabling business environment for women entrepreneurs. Based on this blueprint, ITC launched the SheTrades Initiative, which aims to connect 3 million women entrepreneurs to international markets by 2021.
Since 2015, ITC has trained more than 300,000 women, generated more than 100 million USD in exports, mobilised more than 25,000 active users on SheTrades.com, and created an investment pipeline of over 11 million USD. For more information on the SheTrades Initiative’s please visit www.shetrades.com.
Read the published document
Go to the product page for ISO/IWA 34 to find more information regarding the published document.