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COVID-19 crisis could set-back a generation of women in business



Women across the world have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – a staggering 87% of women business owners say they have been adversely affected. Overrepresentation in sectors hardest hit by the economic downturn (tourism, retail, F&B, etc), the pronounced digital gender gap in an increasingly virtual world, and the mounting pressures of childcare responsibilities are only a few factors that have left women particularly vulnerable.

In tackling this stark disparity and unlocking the fullest potential of women in business, the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) 2020 report findings make a compelling case for building on targeted gender-specific policy best practices internationally.

Now in its fourth year, MIWE highlights the vast socio-economic contributions of women entrepreneurs across the world, as well as providing insight on the factors driving and inhibiting their advancement. Through a unique methodology – drawing on publicly available data from leading international organizations, such as the OECD and International Labor Organization – MIWE 2020 includes a global ranking on the advancement of women in business in pre-pandemic conditions across 58 economies (including 15 in the Asia Pacific region), representing almost 80% of the female labor force.

MIWE 2020’s top performing economy is a prime example of gender-specific support mechanisms having swift and significant results. For the first time, Israel tops the MIWE as best economy for women entrepreneurs worldwide, advancing from 4th place in 2019. With an ambition to double the number of female entrepreneurs within two years, Israel’s success has been driven by a focused institutional backing for SMEs – its ‘Support for SMEs’ ranking catapulted from 42nd place in 2019, to 1st in 2020.

Last year’s strong performers, the United States and New Zealand – although dropping from 1st to 2nd,and 2nd to 4th places respectively – demonstrate that economies with mature gender focused initiatives still out-perform on the global stage through continued focus on advancing conditions for women in business. In both these economies, favorable cultural perceptions of entrepreneurism, the high visibility of female leaders that serve as role models for aspiring entrepreneurs, and supportive entrepreneurial conditions play a crucial role in their success.

It is noteworthy that the majority of economies (34 out of a total of 58 in this report) have healthy MIWE scores of 60 to 70 such as Australia, Indonesia, Mainland China, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia while 13 economies have lower scores of 50 to 60 such as Japan and India.

Of the 58 markets included in the Index, 12 moved up by five or more ranks year-on-year, while 10 fell by five or more. Asia Pacific’s fast-rising markets include Mainland China (+6) and Indonesia (+5) while the largest drops were seen in Singapore (-12), Philippines (-10), Hong Kong SAR (-8) and Vietnam (-7).

“What the findings make clear is that regardless of an economy’s wealth, level of development, size, and geographic location, gender inequalities continue to persist – even pre-pandemic. What COVID-19 did is that it exacerbated an already problematic situation. It disproportionately disrupted women’s lives and livelihoods to a greater extent than men due to a few pre-existing factors: the jobs and sectors women tend to work in, childcare and domestic responsibilities and the pre-existing gender disparity in business.

Yet, through the pandemic we’ve seen women’s strength and endurance in the face of adversity. If anything, this year has illuminated how vast women’s potential really is. But this moment in time is fragile unless governments, financial services and business organizations come together to do three things: offer systemic support and programs to enable women to survive and thrive in this new normal, equip them with skills to navigate the digital world, and nurture an equitable, accessible financial services system that supports women’s work and entrepreneurship. These are not easy to deliver, but investments like these can yield priceless dividends for not only women, but society as a whole,” said Julienne Loh, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Partnerships, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.

COVID-19 has posed setbacks, but also opportunity

MIWE 2020 also provides initial analysis on the ramifications of COVID-19 on women at work, and draws out effective support policies. Although differing from economy to economy, those proving most effective include expansive relief measures for SMEs – from wage subsidies to furlough schemes and fiscal bailouts – as well as state childcare support.

Crucially, the report presents an optimistic outlook for the future of women entrepreneurs. It indicates that the pandemic could prove a catalyst for exponential progress for women in business and an opportunity to course-correct gender bias. It draws on several points to illustrate this, notably:

• The COVID-19 era presents an empowering narrative for women in leadership, providing inspiration at a time when cultural barriers and fear of failure still impede some women from business ventures. COVID-19 has highlighted women’s ability to lead under extraordinary circumstances. Female world leaders such as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and the leadership of Chinese Taipei Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen have presided over some of the most successful efforts in containing COVID-19 while instilling order, assurance, trust and calm. With almost half (47.8%) of female entrepreneurs reporting being driven by a desire to contribute to the greater societal good, the impact these leaders have cannot be underestimated.

• Women in business are already demonstrating marked adaptability, despite extensive barriers to success. On the frontline, women business owners are adapting to the new world of work with renewed confidence. 42% have shifted to a digital business model and 34% have identified new business opportunities since the pandemic.

• The ‘next normal’ presents a once-in a-lifetime opportunity to remove existing barriers, driving greater gender participation and parity for women in business. As well as magnifying several fold the many disparities women in business face – from the digital gender gap to financial inclusion – COVID-19 has been an intense stimulus for structural progress.

The report notes that implications of these observations are profound. It further demonstrates the untapped value of women as leaders and, critically, highlights the role of the pandemic in expediating progressive solutions. Leveraging this momentum and championing gender-specific initiatives will be critical to realizing women’s potential and winding down the $172 trillion lost globally (World Bank) due to the differences in lifetime earnings between women and men.

Mastercard’s commitment to driving forward inclusion

Sue Kelsey, Executive Vice President, Global Consumer Products and Financial Inclusion, Mastercard said: “A crisis will always reveal vulnerabilities in the system, and COVID-19 has done that in spades. We have seen the staggering extent of the disparity women in business face. But unlike any other economic downturn, COVID-19 has also paved the way for considerable progress and we have seen what can be achieved when priority is given.”

The MIWE report is just one component in Mastercard’s broader mission to drive forward the advancement of the disconnected and disadvantaged, with a particular commitment to support and help advance female entrepreneurs and small businesses through initiatives such as its Start Path and Path to Priceless programs. In 2020, Mastercard expanded its worldwide financial inclusion commitment, pledging to bring a total of one billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the digital economy by 2025. As part of this effort, there will be a direct focus on providing 25 million women entrepreneurs with solutions that can help them grow their businesses, through a range of initiatives crossing funding, mentoring and the development of inclusive technologies.

• Download the MIWE 2020 report and supporting assets here.

• View case studies for New Zealand (p23), South Korea (p33) and Indonesia (p51) in Appendix 1

• Learn more about Mastercard’s efforts to engage, enable and empower women here.


MIWE provides world-leading analysis on how women in business are progressing across 58 global economies. Representing almost 80 percent of the international female labour force, the MIWE provides deep-dive analysis on the socioeconomic factors propelling and inhibiting their success.

Through a unique methodology – involving detailed analysis across 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators spanning Advancement Outcomes, Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions – the index ranks 58 economies according to performance over the past year. Aggregating these scores, the index is able to provide an overall grading of how successful individual economies are in advancing female entrepreneurialism in comparison to peers in pre-COVID19 conditions.

This year’s report also provides additional analysis on the early ramifications of emergency measures implemented by governments and business for women entrepreneurs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic across 40 global economies.

The MIWE findings provide clarity and understanding for governments, policymakers, stakeholders, businesses and individuals alike wishing to understand the crucial role of women in business and apply learnings from global economies.

– The End –

About Mastercard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.comMastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. Our decency quotient, or DQ, drives our culture and everything we do inside and outside of our company. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.

Mastercard Communications ContactSarah Guldin, +65 6390 6199

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Dilmah voted Best Corporate Citizen in Ceylon Chamber Sustainability Awards 2020



Sri Lankan family tea company Dilmah was honoured in Sri Lanka’s apex corporate sustainability awards, as one of two recipients of the Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Award for Sri Lanka in 2020, a company news release said.

“Dilmah won in the category of Businesses with Less than Rs. 15 Billion Annual Turnover based on complex criteria linked to social, environmental and economic value, compliance, resilience, stakeholder management and crisis response. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce award is judged annually – now in its 17th year – in an exhaustive process steered by a panel of eminent judges. The Best Corporate Citizen in the category of Businesses with greater than Rs. 15 Billion Annual Turnover was won by Ceylon Biscuits Ltd, also a Sri Lankan family business,” it said.

In addition to the coveted top award, Dilmah won category awards for Customer Relations, Environment Beyond the Business and was chosen as one of the Top 10 Corporate Citizens of Sri Lanka. The company stands out in its achievement as a family owned business with a singular focus on tea, among conglomerates and finance houses that form the top 10.

“Dilmah was formed by Founder, Merrill J. Fernando, on an unequivocal commitment to human service. The context was the colonial economic system that persisted in the tea industry in the 1950s, vestiges of which are evident even today in inadequate value addition to Sri Lanka’s high-quality tea and spices. The award scrutinised each finalists’ performance in areas including sustainability and business resilience in the wake of COVID-19, packaging sustainability, customer relations, commitment to environment and social development initiatives,” the release said.

Merrill J. Fernando, who recently celebrated his 70th year in tea is recognized as the face of fine Ceylon Tea in several countries where he started his business inviting tea drinkers to, ‘do try it!’ He commented on hearing of the accolade, ‘Mine was a simple wish – to present the finest tea with quality and integrity. What people call sustainability is a way of life for my sons and I. This award is a humbling accolade, because my journey in tea was marked more by criticism than appreciation.’

A minimum 15% of the company’s pre-tax profits directly benefit humanity through the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation, both formed to fulfill the company’s commitment to community and environment. The Dilmah philosophy has touched the lives of thousands through programmes for disabled children, empowerment initiatives for women, youth and communities. The company became carbon neutral in 2019 and plans to be carbon negative by 2030.



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Vision Care opens 60th branch at Medihelp Hospital in Homagama



Vision Care, Sri Lanka’s premier eye care solutions provider, opened its 60th branch at Medihelp Hospital located at High-level road, Homagama. Present at the momentous opening were Chief Guest Dr. Prasad Pathirana – Eye Surgeon, Horana Base Hospital and Chandika Wijesiriwardana – Executive Director, Medihelp Hospitals, who graced the event.

“Vision Care has entered into a strategic partnership with Medihelp Hospitals to enhance the hospital’s eye care offering. Vision Care is focused on expanding its optical services to selected Medihelp Hospitals’ locations, thereby eventually covering all major districts in the country,” a news release issued in connection with the event said.

It said the new location offers a wide collection of affordable eyewear and specialized services such as primary eye examination, refraction, contact lens assessment, eye pressure diagnostics, hearing aids and other related services.

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Kangaroo Cabs adopt strict measures to safeguard customers against Covid-19



Kangaroo Cabs (Pvt) Ltd., Sri Lanka’s leading cab service provider trusted by customers for the past 33 years, has adopted many stringent measures to ensure customer safety against Covid-19.

This includes providing hand sanitizers, touchless thermometers and face masks to all drivers registered under Kangaroo Cabs. They are advised strictly to follow health guidelines and pay attention to safeguard their valued customers. Customers’ body temperature is checked and hand sanitization provided before every trip.

The car is sanitized at the end of every journey to ensure the safety of the next customer and the drivers. Drivers are advised to wear face masks and follow health guidelines right throughout the journey. Precautions and safety measures are a top priority at Kangaroo Cabs.

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