Main trade challenges facing women entrepreneurs

The Canada–Ukraine Trade and Investment Support (CUTIS) project co-delivered 12 World Business Café workshops in collaboration with regional chambers of commerce and with the participation of Ukraine’s Export Promotion Office.

Nearly 300 businesswomen attended in total.

The workshops aimed to define the challenges and the needs of women entrepreneurs that relate to exporting. The idea was to collect baseline information that would be helpful for stakeholders seeking to enhance business support services for women entrepreneurs in the future.

Discussions held during World Business Café workshops point to a number of challenges faced by women entrepreneurs.

The challenges reported fall into two main categories: export-related and gender-related. Participants were also asked about the types of assistance they would like to receive to help them overcome those challenges.

The top export-related challenges mentioned by workshop participants were a lack of information about accessing foreign markets, including information on regulatory requirements and standards, and a lack of relevant skills that enable exporting, such as negotiation skills and foreign-language skills.

Other challenges reported by participants included a lack of trade-related tools, a lack of business support services to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) become export-ready; difficulty finding partners in foreign markets; difficulty accessing capital; and a lack of knowledge about business culture in other countries.

To address those challenges, participants would like to receive targeted training on topics such as how to access foreign markets and how to develop an export strategy. They also asked for more online resources to support exporting, including step-by-step guides and information on the regulations and standards of importing countries.

The top gender-related challenges limiting the success of women entrepreneurs noted by participants were gender stereotypes in Ukrainian society, both in general and in business culture specifically.

Another major challenge was the double burden: women’s typical dual responsibility for home and business.

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The Canada-Ukraine Trade and Investment Support (CUTIS) Project is a 5-year (2016-2021) Canadian development assistance initiative designed to lower poverty in Ukraine through increasing exports from Ukraine to Canada and investment from Canada to Ukraine. The project funded by the Canadian Government through the Global affairs Canada and implemented by the Conference Board of Canada in partnership with the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce.

The CUTIS project implements U CAN EXPORT Support Program in five priority sectors: clothing, footwear, furniture, confectionery, and IT services.