Disparities accessing to economic opportunities which have persisted across ASEAN and elsewhere in the world have created formidable challenges to the start-up, development and internationalisation of women-owned business, heard a Bangkok dialogue between the ASEAN SME Working Group (SMEWG) and the US-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs plus other stakeholders.

Thus women own disproportionately fewer firms and their firms are often smaller in terms of scale and are in the informal sector at the bottom of the enterprise pyramid.

Furthermore, businesswomen often face more limited access to finance than men, which results in untapped economic potential and missed development opportunities.

Themed Regional Policy Dialogue on Empowering Women Entrepreneurs to Advance ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Development, the dialogue brought together the ASEAN SMEWG, ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) members, social enterprises and private-sector stakeholders at the national and regional levels, and representatives from several international organisations.

The attendees shared good practices, success stories and lessons learned in fostering women entrepreneurship and enterprises.

They also provided recommendations on how to incorporate gender mainstreaming to enhance women's entrepreneurship and enterprise for SMEWG's consideration in framing the ASEAN SME Strategic Vision and Action Plan (2016-2025) and its Implementation Roadmap for 2016-2020.-VNA