Empowering communities and enabling inclusive growth:
Our focus on Gender

One in three small and medium enterprises are owned by women. Why aren’t they getting their fair share of government contracts?

Women are excelling in business. According to the World Bank, women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) contribute 20% to the global gross domestic product.  Despite the growth of women’s entrepreneurship, the number of businesses getting government contracts is much lower. Women-owned companies get only 5% of federal contracts in the US. In Albania, women-run 27% of all businesses but only a tiny 5% of companies awarded municipal contracts.

This just isn’t good enough. Women’s participation in public procurement as users, planners, and suppliers is critical for the creation and monitoring of effective public services. Boosting women’s businesses can create jobs, and inject the market with new ideas and competition.

Lack of access to information on bids, understanding complex procedures and bias can create barriers for women entrepreneurs. We must also take into account the different factors which may render policies less effective for further marginalized groups, such as women of color and/or with disabilities.

Governments must

  1. Monitor gender-disaggregated procurement data: This could be done by applying the Open Contracting Global Principles and Data Standard to monitor competition and gaps, quality of implementation, and understanding and addressing complaints of structural discrimination.
  2. Increase women-owned suppliers winning government contracts: By proactively seeking out and engaging women-owned business groups, establishing a fair complaint and redress procedure and simplifying contracts to reduce preparation time for tenders, authorities can open opportunities for women-owned suppliers.
  3. Plan for gender-responsive procurement: An integrated gender-responsive procurement strategy will ensure that the goods and services procured take into account how they impact women, often the poorest and most vulnerable group in society.
  4. Tackle gendered corruption through gender-responsive anti-corruption policies: Recognizing the gendered aspects to corruption from sextortion to modern slavery in the supply chain and creating measures to both prevent and prosecute will help mitigate risks.

Projects and partners

In 2021, we are launching a new project with the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (Uganda) and the Institute for Social Accountability (Kenya) to explore the effectiveness of gender responsive procurement policies in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania over the course of two years. The project is supported by the International Development Research Council (Canada), the Gates Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.

Contact our experts

Lindsey Marchessault,
Director, Data and Engagement