Women service exporters can be successful, though they export at a disadvantage. The growing trend towards outsourcing business support services, coupled with e-trade possibilities, offers increased opportunities for women in all countries to export services. Women are generally known as owners of small retail operations or in the types of services (nursing, teaching, secretarial services, domestic services) that are traditionally seen as “women’s work.” Less visible is their growing role as principals in firms that provide professional services, financial services, and construction. Service industries offer women the opportunity to establish businesses with relatively little capital and, with the advent of the Internet, that have the potential to be operated from a home base.
But women business owners continue to have less involvement in export activities than their male counterparts. In large part this is due to time and resource constraints because of the “double burden” of women in virtually all societies. Even if women do not have child care responsibilities, cultural mores usually dictate that women will run households, care for aging or disabled relatives, and volunteer in their communities – in addition to engaging in paid work. So women business owners approach exporting with significant time constraints. Expanding the number of successful women exporters will require a six-pronged approach:
The Foundation of Canadian Women Entrepreneurs commissioned Dr. Riddle to conduct the first in-depth survey of Canadian women service exporters, and the results are in the following document:
From a more general perspective, UNCTAD commissioned a study by Dr. Riddle of women and services trade, which was published in Trade and Gender: Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries (2004):