We are currently in Singapore attending the 10th annual Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Summit, a three-day event dedicated to analyzing, celebrating and improving women’s entrepreneurship around the globe. This year the summit has brought together over 150 women founders, CEOs, dignitaries, professionals and Dell Leaders to explore the theme ‘Share. Inspire. Transform.’ Today, Dell has released their 2019 Women Entrepreneur Cities (WE Cities) Index, ranking 50 global cities on their ability to foster growth for women entrepreneurs. Let’s take a look at what the index means and why it’s important for the global conversation around women’s entrepreneurship and broader workplace advancement.
By Ony Anukem
Globally, the conversation around women’s entrepreneurship is still heavily centred around opportunity creation in order to enable more women to join the entrepreneurial ranks. While this is important, once women have successfully started a business, there comes a time when they need to shift their focus to scale.
The Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) was born from a desire to create, support and nurture a community of High-Potential Women Entrepreneurs (HPWEs), while providing them with access to technology, networks and capital. By Dell’s definition, HPWEs are women entrepreneurs who are scaling and growing existing businesses with the potential to break through the $1 million (USD) mark in annual revenue. These women are at the heart of everything that DWEN does — they are committed to adding value to their members personally, professionally, and in business.
“When we invest in women, we invest in the future; communities prosper, economies thrive and the next generation leads with purpose,” says Karen Quintos (pictured above), EVP and chief customer officer at Dell Technologies.
In partnership with IHS Markit, Dell launched the WE Cities Index in 2017 to benchmark and rate cities on their ability to attract and support HPWEs. The index analyzes and compares 50 cities on the impact of local policies, programs and characteristics in addition to national laws and customs to help improve support for women entrepreneurs and the overall economy. Two years later, they’ve re-ranked those cities to measure their progress and the new findings indicate positive change in all markets and a promising race to the top. Karen Campbell, Consulting Associate Director of IHS Markit explains “the 2019 Dell WE Cities report is unique from other bodies of research in that it not only ranks 50 global cities on their ability to foster women entrepreneurs, it shows how the cities have improved from their 2017 benchmark.”
The index assesses five key characteristics: Capital, Technology, Talent, Culture and Markets. These pillars are organized into two groups — operating environment and enabling environment. The overall rating is based on 71 indicators; 45 of which have a gender-based component. Individual indicators were weighted based on four criteria: relevance, quality of underlying data, uniqueness in the index and gender component.
“When we invest in women, we invest in the future; communities prosper, economies thrive and the next generation leads with purpose.”
It’s reassuring to see that all 50 cities listed in the index have made progress since 2017, indicating that the women’s entrepreneurship landscape is heading in the right direction. “Technology is helping to drive this progress as a gender-neutral enabler,” says Amit Midha, president of Asia Pacific & Japan, Global Digital Cities at Dell Technologies, “help[ing to] create a level playing field.”
In the top 10 cities overall, six are in the US, three are in Europe, and one (Toronto, where we are headquartered) is in Canada. Quite unsurprisingly, the tech hub of the world, the San Francisco Bay Area, took the number one spot after being number two in 2017. “This year we can see some patterns emerging,” Karen Campbell says. “Ranked cities have collectively made the most improvement in the Capital and Culture pillars, which shows the importance of measuring not just the operating environment but also enabling environment for women entrepreneurs.”
One key reason that the San Francisco Bay Area was able to overtake New York for the number one spot this year is because the Bay Area is one of the best places for women to gain access to capital. Additionally, in the area of Culture, the city moved up from 6th to 2nd — helped by the fact that women role models in the Bay Area are more visible than ever, and there are multiple initiatives that are actually taking action and achieving results to create, sustain and scale women-founded and women-led businesses.
“By arming city leaders and policymakers with actionable, data-driven research on the landscape for women entrepreneurs, we can collectively accelerate the success of women-owned businesses removing financial, cultural and political barriers.”
While it’s good to see that every city has made progress, we cannot afford to become complacent — there is still a lot of room for development. Out of a total of 100 possible points, the Bay Area only scored 63.7 points. “This data-driven approach shows where women entrepreneurs still face barriers in scaling their business,” states Karen Campbell. “It also validates the need for this kind of research and outreach to policymakers to improve the prospects for women founders.”
If we want to see big changes for women-owned businesses across the board, with cities hitting the 80+ point mark on the indices in the next few years, then we need buy-in at the international, national and local levels. Based on the findings and comparison between the 2017-2019 indices, Dell has developed a set of WE Cities Policy Recommendations focused on three areas, including:
- Access to and the development of financial and human capital.
- Private and public sectors role in increasing access to local and global networks and markets.
- How government and business leaders can help women entrepreneurs thrive in the changing face of technology.
It’s not enough to set a goal without assessing the current situation and incrementally measuring performance to make sure things are on track. Karen Quintos believes that “by arming city leaders and policymakers with actionable, data-driven research on the landscape for women entrepreneurs, we can collectively accelerate the success of women-owned businesses removing financial, cultural and political barriers.” Hopefully, this index will encourage cities to maintain and improve their rankings, and inspire other cities that aren’t currently featured to get on the list.
Want to dig in deeper into the 2019 WE Cities Index or learn more about the work of Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network? You can find everything you need to know here.