The economic empowerment of women is a strong commitment of the Vietnamese Government, and one of its priorities as well as of the 2017 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference.
The issue took center stage at the 2017 APEC Public-Private Dialogue on Women and the Economy, held on September 28 in Hue. Attracting more than 600 women participants, the forum, entitled ‘Women Entrepreneurs Forum: She Means Business’, generated various discussions including how public and private sectors working together can pave the path to unlock women’s entrepreneurial capabilities.
Among the speakers was Stacey Valy Panayioutou, Global Head of Talent and Development for The Coca-Cola Company, who shared what the company calls the Golden Triangle of business, government, and civil society has helped make Coca-Cola’s global 5by20 initiative a continued success. The 5by20 program aims to support the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs throughout Coca-Cola’s global value chain by 2020; since launching the program in 2010, it has provided 1.7 million women entrepreneurs in 64 countries with access to business skills training, financial services, assets, peer networks, and mentoring.
In Vietnam, Coca-Cola implements the 5by20 initiative through an e-learning program, delivered through its 7 EKOCENTERS across the country, as well as in partnerships with provincial governments. The e-learning program provides training on practical business management and is run together with the Vietnam Women’s Union and the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurship Council. To date, the program has reached 9 provinces in Vietnam, providing seven courses to 220 trainees. The program aims to reach 2,000 women across the country by the end of 2017.
Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, Panayioutou discussed her insights on the value of ensuring women’s economic inclusion and building their entrepreneurial capabilities.
How does Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative, from a global perspective, impact the business while ensuring it contributes back to the various communities?
– With 5by20, we are infusing our system and infusing our value chain with people who are contributors; from the front-end, we have our sales and distribution vis-a-vis retail, and then we have the artisans who are converting our product packaging into handbags or jewelry. This infusion enables us to reach more customers and consumers so there’s much a very clear business advantage.
From the aspect of society and shared value, we know that female entrepreneurs are more likely to give back to education, to their families and communities, so you are making healthier, stronger, more sustainable communities. With the infusion of trainings that we are giving to women, we are enabling and teaching them so they are equipped; the trainings run the spectrum from the basic level of financial or money management to more advanced financial analysis and business skills. Providing these skills from an educational and training perspective helps make the program sustainable.
How important is it for Coca-Cola to be part of these forums to advance its programs?
– We have always stood by our sustainability pillars of Women, Water, and Wellbeing. When we talk about why we facilitate in a very personal way the economic development of women, the capability of women to run businesses, we stress how doing so not only has an exponential multiplier effect not only our business – more importantly, it has a strong ripple effect on communities. As such, participating in significant events like this allows us to inspire more women, generate opportunities for even more and greater partnerships, and enable those shared values to benefit women in communities.
You mentioned that Coca-Cola provides not just financial support for its program. Why has the company gone above and beyond?
– When you set out to do something, you want to do it well. For us at Coca-Cola, it is excellent foreshadowing to say it is not just about numbers – it’s about building capabilities and building confidence. Every time you have a success story in a community, it inspires other generations of women to say ‘Wow, I can actually do this.” So building a woman’s capability and confidence to be able to run that business has the multiplying effect of inspiring more women, and word of mouth spreads that story of success.
The EKOCENTER, which is a big part of our 5by20 efforts, reflects that ripple effect. Run by a female entrepreneur using a social enterprise model, the EKOCENTER is a tangible demonstration about how empowering women enables them to have that capability and confidence to run a sustainable business, and shows other women that they can also gain the skills to manage their own entrepreneurial ventures, with the training they can get in these community centers.