“The power of coming together to deliver change.” It’s a driving philosophy of 2023 SAP Innovation Award winner WEConnect International, an organization devoted to helping female entrepreneurs by using technology to help them compete in a global marketplace. It’s a mission I relate to on a number of levels. 

As SAP’s vice president and head of Diversity & Inclusion in North America, I’m proud to oversee numerous talent development and career advancement programs for women and other marginalized, underrepresented groups, programs that will help them excel today and prepare for advancement tomorrow.

Having been an entrepreneur myself, I remember the challenge of not having access to information that would have opened up my business to a range of possibilities. Systemic change drives impact over time and SAP is committed to changes fostering gender parity and equitable opportunities for all. We are very proud of that!

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From a deeply personal standpoint, I understand that women have to excel at what we do in the world and must contribute back to society, leaving it better for the next generation.

This was the general theme of SAP’s recent Live Chat on the Tomorrow’s Tech Today platform. I was honored to be a guest, along with Elizabeth Vazquez, president, CEO, and co-founder of WEConnect International. We’d met earlier this year at SAP Sapphire, but SAP and WEConnect International have been partners far longer, as our Global Sourcing & Procurement organization leverages the organization for supplier diversity purposes to drive global spend with women-owned businesses. Additionally, most recently it developed a platform assisting women-owned businesses across 135 countries. Together, we discussed how inclusion is more than just the right thing to do, but a business imperative for the sustainability of our society.

The Revolution Will Be Inclusive

SAP’s Live Chat on Tomorrow’s Tech Today platform is a new, limited series hosted by thought leader Sally Eaves, highlighting the latest innovations in emergent technology integration across a range of sectors and themes. In each episode, SAP innovators come together with experts from a variety of backgrounds, sharing stories that can inspire all of us. While each organization may differ, each interviewee shares their version of the same story – overcoming a unique challenge with the type of innovation we all aspire to achieve.

SAP Innovation Awards: Inclusion and Enablement with Experts

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SAP Innovation Awards: Inclusion and Enablement with Experts

The Great Equalizer

In the United States alone, 42% of all businesses are owned by women. These employ more than 1 million workers.

Not only are women half of the population, but we make or influence 85% of all consumer purchasing decisions. With that scope and buying power, having a platform to enable success is critical to the economy as well as society. But there are so many challenges. On average, corporations, governments, and other large organizations “spend only 1% with women-owned businesses, and that’s a massive market failure,” Vazquez pointed out.

Legacy platforms helped aggravate the situation. WEConnect International’s member-buyers found it difficult to search for women-owned suppliers, while the businesses struggled to navigate their systems to register and apply for certification. Language barriers created the predictable complications. On a business-to-business (B2B) level, many women-owned businesses were small and midsize and not even on the radar of the larger corporations. The platform would serve as an equalizer for buyers “to go online and search for these competitive solutions that, frankly, our buyers just didn’t even know existed,” Vazquez said.

Like-Minded, Like-Kinded

One advantage WEConnect International enjoyed in launching its platform was the list of influential partners, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), ExxonMobil, Accenture, IBM, and Procter & Gamble (P&G). And not only was SAP playing a key role in building the platform, we are also member-buyers.

In other words, we were “like-minded, like-kinded,” walking the walk, talking the talk, truly committed to leveraging our purchasing power to realize this goal.

The solution, dubbed WECommunity, would stand as a great example of inclusion by design.

Art of the Possible

By connecting member-buyers to a database of more than 16,000 registered or certified businesses, WEConnect International broke through the barriers that previously existed. The streamlined process enabled an additional 7,900 women-owned suppliers to register with the organization. These included businesses from 12 new countries, a 28% increase in global reach. The revenue growth of the suppliers has led to the creation of 24,000 new jobs.

Since deployment, WEConnect International went from tracking US$4 billion in spend with women-owned businesses based outside of the United States to $8 billion.

“Together we’re actually moving money into the hands of women who, in turn, employ more people and support their families and communities,” Vazquez said.

With those types of results, it’s clear to see why WEConnect International embodies the spirit of SAP Innovation Awards. Through its use of SAP’s tools, the group has created not just a platform, but a vision of the art of the possible.

To learn more about SAP Innovation Awards and discover the incredible stories of innovation, visit www.sap.com/innovationawards.

Margot Goodson is vice president & head of North America Diversity Inclusion at SAP.

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