There are a number of challenges which confront female entrepreneurs throughout the Caribbean, some of which have been supported by research, statistics and reports piloted by international agencies such as the United Nations (UN) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). One underlying trend that is supported by the findings of these organizations is that the economic participation and contribution of women owned businesses to their respective countries is adversely affected by factors such as access to formal networks, lack of mentorship and lack of advocacy. The Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean’s (WENC) goal is to help strengthen and increase the capacity of women businesses throughout the Caribbean through the provision of access to formal networks, advocacy, mentorship and training and capacity building.Women in the Caribbean are marginalized by a number of factors which limit their economic participation and contribution to their societies. Our goal is to address some of the main challenges affecting women-owned business in the Caribbean including access to formal networks, lack of mentorship and lack of advocacy.
Access to Formal Networks
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) notes that women-owned businesses make up between 31% – 38% of all small and medium sized businesses in developing markets such as Latin America and the Caribbean, yet these businesses appear restricted in their growth paths, with the majority skewed towards micro and small firms. Limited access to formal networks that provide business opportunities, resources and data, and sharing of best practices, etc has been identified as one of the main limitations for women-owned businesses.Thus, WENC seeks to address the challenge of access to networks by creating and linking formal organizations for women-owned businesses throughout the Caribbean region, in particular St. Lucia, Jamaica, Barbados, Bahamas, Grenada, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Suriname.
Advocacy

Low representation of women in business leadership and decision-making positions has been cited by the World Bank as one of the main factors which impede the economic empowerment of women and their ability to improve their economic status.Solution: To develop and disseminate a policy position paper on the economic empowerment of women in the Caribbean.Objective: To outline issues affecting women’s economic empowerment within the region and to develop key arguments & clear positions on solutions to improve the economic status of women for the benefit of national economies and societies.

Lack of Mentorship

Women-owned business in the Caribbean suffer from limited to access to mentors and mentorship: this was one of the main issues identified as adversely impacting their growth and development at the Caribbean Women Entrepreneurs Forum in March 2012. The problem is particularly acute in smaller Caribbean countries where the small population and limited market size negates mentor relationships due to the limited pool of mentors and concerns of competition between mentors and mentees.Solution: WENC will coordinate a regional mentorship programme to enable greater access to mentorship for women-owned businesses operating similar businesses in different markets.Objective: To develop a pilot mentorship programme among members of WENC in order to increase access to mentors.

Training and Capacity Building
In order to strengthen the success of women operated businesses in the Caribbean, the availability of skills in management, production, business operations and marketing are critical. Many women led businesses in the Caribbean do not reach their full potential because of lack of access to training, understanding of new knowledge based approaches to management, understanding of market opportunities and how to upscale.Consequently, WENC will coordinate an ongoing training initiative which will match training needs with available training opportunities or through the identification and delivery of training to meet the needs.
Committees
The work plan is being coordinated by the part time Administrative Assistant and is being guided by the following committees.
  1. Membership & Networking
  2. Training & Capacity Building
  3. Market Access & Development
  4. Advocacy & Outreach
  5. Resource Mobilization