International Women’s Day is another chance to celebrate women in business, culture, politics and everyday society – as well as reflect on how we can continue to push for more representation, empowerment and change for the better.
At Twill, our focus is in the world of logistics and trade; helping to remove the barriers to international trade for women-owned SMEs. Today, over 95% of companies are SMEs – but only one-in-five exporting businesses are owned by women and they are more likely to face obstacles to trade.
Women-owned businesses that export are on average more than 3.5 times more productive than those who do not export.
The data bears out that enabling and empowering women-owned businesses leads to more competitive and diverse markets. According to the International Trade Centre, women-owned SMEs that export tend to earn more, pay more, employ more people and be more productive than firms that only operate domestically.
In light of this, and supercharged by Maersk’s sustainability ambition, Twill has a goal to help connect 100,000 small and medium-sized enterprises, including women-operated businesses, to international trade by 2025.
Achieving this goal requires collaboration and partnerships – and we are proud to be working with SheTrades to share knowledge, experience and connections, as well as providing support, mentoring and insight into international trade.
Already, through our partnership, we have begun working with the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), which has 40 chapters across Sub-Saharan Africa and supports women into global trade.
We spoke to Joy Kyula, CEO of the AWEP’s Kenya chapter, about the experiences of her members and our work together: “The women in our programme face a number of barriers in getting into international trade. These can start from a lack of relevant information or technical skills to make informed decisions right through to aspects such as a lack of access to finance, the ability to scale-up or lacking the right contacts with export markets and buyers.
“At AWEP, we work to support women in easing these barriers, and when you do that you boost revenues and sales for them, creating more job opportunities and bolstering local and national economies.
“We’re excited to be partnering with Twill on a programme to provide the tools and infrastructure, not just to access global trade, but facilitate growth and expansion for those women-owned businesses that are already export-ready.
“We know through things like Twill’s transparent pricing, cargo tracking and support throughout the process in understanding things like regulations and incoterms, that there are great opportunities to support women-owned businesses in bringing their products to the world.”
Alongside our partnerships, Twill’s platform, services and day-to-day operations – that we provide to over 154 countries – are also crucial in enabling women-owned business.
Our CEO Anne-Sophie Zerlang, delves into the details: “Since joining Maersk 17 years ago, I have spent my entire career in logistics across many different sectors and my heart beats strongly for supporting women and seeing women-owned businesses succeed and access global trade. I believe the desire is there, we just need to get the obstacles out of the way.
“At Twill, we have been able to build our team and our services to reflect a modern, diverse company. Our team features women in a range of roles, including four out of our seven leadership team members being women. On top of that, we have team members from different nations, backgrounds and bringing different ideas.
“I believe that through this team, we are best-placed to provide a platform and service that really makes a difference for SMEs. For example, Joy at AWEP reflected on a lot of the barriers we’re seeking to remove. Our platform is built to be simple and intuitive – and through cargo-tracking and transparent pricing, we give business owners the visibility that is so important when you are new to trading internationally.”
Anne-Sophie concludes: “When issues arise, we have an award-winning customer care team ready to support. I think, as we look to the future, keeping this balance of simplicity and support will be crucial. I want women business owners to feel empowered to trade – and for us to facilitate that trade – but when help is needed, someone is there who cares about you and your business.
“It is a steady road, but we have our goal of connecting 100,000 SMEs and we intend to meet it.”
“On International Women’s Day, I’m proud to say that I believe we are building an inclusive service at Twill. It is a steady road, but we have our goal of connecting 100,000 SMEs and we intend to meet it – and ensure that women-owned business plays a crucial part in the future of international trade.”
If you’re a woman in logistics who is interested in accessing international trade, contact our team today.