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Advancing women-owned businesses in the COVID-19 recovery

Ernst & Young



Workplace Gender Equality

Advancing women-owned businesses in the COVID-19 recovery

Advancing women-owned businesses in the COVID-19 recovery

The Advancing women-owned businesses in the COVID-19 recovery report, published by the EY, provides a snapshot of the impact COVID-19 has had on the Australian economy and the impact it has had on women.

The report summarises the current initiatives in place across Australia, both at a Federal and State level, that help to encourage economic growth and recovery for all Australians, but in particular for women who were made increasingly vulnerable by the economic crisis. The report also explores the benefits of investing in women-owned businesses, and whether a certification model will be effective in driving that investment.

Evidencing the value of women-owned business certification and how this could be used to increase the role of women-owned businesses, the report includes a desktop literature review relying on publicly available sources to identify the:

  • Certification processes for women-owned businesses globally and in Australia;
  • The economic benefits of supporting women-owned businesses and gender equality initiatives;
  • Certification models for women-owned businesses that are accessible and evidence-based including lessons learnt;
  • Implementation of certification models; and
  • The high-level economic and fiscal benefits of the proposed policy.

This report also includes a number of case studies, provided by known women-owned business owners


  • The economic impacts of COVID-19 are significant and are likely to be felt for years into the future. Although data suggests Australia has recovered strongly in the first quarter of 2021, the negative effects of COVID-19 cannot be dismissed, especially when there is evidence that women were disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of COVID-19.
  • Women already experience a gap in economic potential and lack of resources in economic structures. The economic impacts of COVID-19 only exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and put women at an even greater disadvantage. Policy and programs provide mechanisms to attempt to correct market failures that constrain women business owners but also facilitate economic benefits and promote economic empowerment for women.
  • In the context of the Federal Government’s 2020 and 2021 Budget response to the impact of COVID-19 on women, there remains a strong case for targeted investment in increasing the participation of women in the labour market. One possible strategy is to encourage greater investment in women-owned businesses.
  • The research shows that women-owned business certification is an effective mechanism to support women’s economic empowerment because they:
    • Facilitate access to value chains
    • Increase women’s labour force participation
    • Provide commercial benefits
    • Increase access to finance and funding
    • Enhance networks and mentorship
    • Improve training and skills
    • Promote gender equality


  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
    • Our approach
  • Context
    • The economic impacts of COVID-19
      • Australia in 2020 – impacts of bushfires and COVID-19 on the economy
      • Gendered impact of COVID-19
    • The gender gap in business ownership
      • Gaps in economic potential
    • The recovery landscape
      • Recent policy initiatives to support economic recovery
      • Why more targeted support is needed
  • Why women-owned business certification?
    • Types of women-owned business certification
      • Examples of how certification has helped – case studies
  • Other forms of social certification
    • B Corporation
    • Social Traders
  • Benefits of women-owned business certification
    • The economic benefits of women-owned business certification
    • Broader social benefits of women-owned business certification
  • The way forward
    • Policy mechanisms for embedding investment in the supply chain
      • Legislation
      • Social procurement
    • The path to implementation
      • Policy options for supporting economic recovery for women-owned business
      • Key implementation considerations
  • Appendix A
    • High-level summary of international examples of legislation
  • Appendix B
    • Disclaimer

This factsheet was originally published on the EY website.

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