SMEs and entrepreneurship

2nd OECD Conference on Women Entrepreneurs in SMEs: Realising the Benefits of Globalisation and the Knowledge-based Economy Paris, 29-30 November 2000


The 2nd OECD Conference on
Realising the Benefits of Globalisation and the Knowledge-based Economy Paris, 29-30 November 2000

held at the
Conference Centre of the French Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry
139, rue de Bercy
75012 Paris, France

Background and objectives

Women's entrepreneurship is developing in the OECD Member countries and around the world. In some countries, for example the United States and Canada, women-owned businesses are increasing at a very rapid pace in terms of both numbers and turnover. In an era of global economic integration, this significant economic and social development is of growing interest to practitioners and policy makers worldwide.

The Industry Committee's Working Party on SMEs, in co-operation with other Committees of the OECD, organised on 29-30 November 2000 a conference on "Women Entrepreneurs in SMEs: Realising the Benefits of Globalisation and the Knowledge-based Economy", as a follow-up to the conference which took place in April 1997 on "Women Entrepreneurs in SMEs: A Major Force in Innovation and Job Creation".

The main objectives of the 1997 conference were to:
  • Increase understanding and discuss the common issues and challenges facing women-owned businesses and identify best practices around the world from which to draw lessons.
  • Recommend public and private sector initiatives to facilitate the growth and development of women-owned businesses in OECD Member and non-member countries.

The recommendations made at the first conference included actions to be taken by government, business, financial institutions and associations. They aimed to pave the way for further progress to which the OECD can contribute through studies and the provision of advice to Member governments, as well as non-member countries and other transition and developing economies. The OECD is well placed to further Member and non-member countries' awareness of women entrepreneurship with a view to increasing the overall effectiveness of policies.

The follow-up conference held in 2000 reviewed the developments that took place in the sector between 1997 and 2000, assessing the extent to which the recommendations issued at the first conference were taken into consideration and implemented by public and private decision makers in Member and non-member countries, and looked to the future to determine what action would be needed to ensure and improve the growth and development of women-owned SMEs.

The conference focused in particular on four main themes:
  • Fostering an entrepreneurial culture for women through education, management training and changes in societal values.
  • Improving knowledge about the financing of women-owned businesses and removing obstacles in this area.
  • Increased participation of women-owned businesses in international trade and the global economy, in particular through the use of new technologies and international networking.
  • Improving knowledge about female entrepreneurship and its role in society and the economy (in particular through the collection of information and data on women-owned businesses).

In addition, several important cross-cutting themes were addressed throughout the conference. Of particular importance was the impact of the increasing global integration of the economy for women-owned businesses. For example, the internationalisation of capital could provide new and diverse sources of finance for women-owned businesses and fulfil their needs for funding and additional services. New technologies would have important implications for the development and expansion of women-owned businesses, in terms of bringing entrepreneurs and investors together, the internationalisation of business activities, and entrepreneurial education and training for women and girls.

The OECD Working Party on SMEs is carrying out two projects related to improving knowledge about women's entrepreneurship and financing for women-owned businesses, which were the primary recommendations of the 1997 conference. Preliminary results of these activities were presented at the 2000 conference in two separate workshops, which covered aspects related to operational experience and lessons learned, as well as future steps to be taken.

The 2000 conference resulted in concrete policy recommendations on how OECD Member economies, as well as transition and developing countries, could fully benefit from the contributions of women entrepreneurs and women-owned enterprises. It addressed what progress would need to be made to enable them to succeed in the economy of the 21st century.


The Conference was attended by:

  • High-level officials and SME policy makers at the local, regional and national levels Representatives from the private sector (women entrepreneurs, business representatives, banks and funding institutions)
  • International organisations/institutions (including regional development banks)
  • Experts (e.g. representatives of networks and women's business associations)
  • NGOs
  • Academics.

The total number of participants was approximately 300.

OECD Member countries were invited to form a delegation of up to seven (7) participants to attend the Conference.

Participation of non-member countries

Thirty-six (36) non-member countries were invited to participate in the Conference. Each non-member country delegation consisted of a maximum of two (2) participants.


The conference was hosted by the French Government and took place at the Conference Centre of the French Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry, at Bercy, in Paris.

Steering Group

The conference was organised by the Secretariat of the Industry Committee's Working Party on SMEs, in co-operation with other OECD Directorates and Services, notably the Territorial Development Service (TDS) and the Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD).

Partners for co-operation with the OECD in the organisation of the conference included a number of organisations/institutions and regional development banks, in particular the World Bank , and also the IDB , the EBRD , the CEI , APEC , and the ILO , among others. This co-operation was designed to extend the global impact of the conference and ensure complementary high-quality input, as well as facilitate access to additional research results and statistics on women entrepreneurs.

Reference group for the preparations of programme and papers

A group of experts from Member and non-member countries, including developing countries, acted as a consultative group in the preparations for the meeting, in addition to providing papers and suggesting participants. The work of the Reference Group was facilitated through the set-up of an Internet-based online forum, which functioned as an electronic discussion group (EDG).

Private Sector Event: "Networking 2000 -- Women Entrepreneurs' Forum"

A business partnering event for women entrepreneurs and business representatives from OECD Member and non-member countries, took place on 1-2 December 2000 back-to-back with and -- under the aegis of -- the 2nd OECD Conference on "Women Entrepreneurs in SMEs". This project was carried out and funded by women entrepreneurs' associations from OECD Member and non-member countries. To ensure compliance with OECD rules and standards, the preparation of this event was monitored by the delegates of the OECD Working Party on SMEs and by the Steering Group of the Conference.