We’ve just released a new report showing that 97% of women entrepreneurs surveyed in low- and middle-income countries have either already had their businesses negatively impacted, or believe they soon will be, as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

These stark findings illustrate the gravity of the current situation and the issues faced by many women entrepreneurs as they strive to remain operational. The pre-existing barriers to business which they face – barriers which the Foundation exists to dismantle – are compounded by COVID-19 and its knock-on effects.

At a time of unprecedented global economic uncertainty, with most forecasts predicting a downturn and contraction of the global economy, action is needed now more than ever to ensure that women entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries receive the support they need to get through this period.

Thankfully, there is a solution. PayPal, a long-time partner of ours, recognises this, and has broadened the scope of its partnership with us on our online, cross-border Mentoring Women in Business programme. The programme matches employees from a partner company’s workforce with woman entrepreneur mentees for one year in a mutually-beneficial business development relationship. This remote, virtual model stands as a bold example of how women business owners can be supported during the current crisis, and how women’s economic empowerment forms a key part of re-building after COVID-19.

In a vital move to help support struggling women entrepreneurs, PayPal has stepped up and more than doubled its investment in the programme, contributing over 90 business experts from its workforce as mentors. At a time when the majority of our beneficiaries face even more challenges than usual, this partnership is more crucial – and stands to be more impactful – than ever, harnessing technology to act on their needs and facilitate support while many countries are in lockdown and many professionals find themselves confined to their homes.

“At a time of real economic uncertainty we are delighted to be enhancing our partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. As a company with a global presence we have a strong commitment to empowering and ensuring individuals have access to tools, resources, and opportunities to participate fully in the global economy and we recognise the vital contributions from the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women in supporting women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries.”

— Julie Vennewitz-Pierce, Head of Philanthropic Programs, PayPal

Our survey illustrates that women entrepreneurs need mentoring now more than ever before. It finds that 53% of impacted businesses are continuing to operate, while 44% have ceased operations temporarily and 3% have done so permanently. The women surveyed are pivoting, adapting and re-purposing their businesses in the immediate short term, and are anticipating the need for all of the above in the future, while reporting a strong need for support and repeated requests for help with business planning to get through COVID-19 and beyond. Thankfully, due to its existing model and infrastructure, our Mentoring programme – and mentors, such as those of PayPal – can form a key part of the solution to ensure that women entrepreneurs receive what they need.

“Doing well by doing good” has emerged as a major theme over the last few years that has seen major corporations re-examine their corporate social responsibility strategy with a renewed focus on targeted social impact. As a company, PayPal are a leading example of this values-driven leadership, and recognise the benefits of supporting women entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries.

During this crisis there is, however, a need for all businesses to adapt and to build resilience and sustainability. While our Mentoring programme’s impact is most visible on its mentees – of the programme’s most recent round, 95% were either satisfied, very satisfied or more than satisfied, 70% reported an increase of profits or sales, and 78% made concrete progress on their business plan – the programme results in positive outcomes for partners as well. 100% of the same round’s mentors said that the programme benefitted their personal and professional development, with 89% reporting gaining new skills which fed back into and enhanced their work at their own companies.

Through partnerships such as that with PayPal, we’re well positioned not only to support our beneficiaries, but ultimately to contribute to the economic recovery of low- and middle-income countries post COVID-19. In 2019, we co-published a report with Boston Consulting Group showing that if women had equal opportunities to be entrepreneurs, global GDP could rise by $5 trillion. Now, during this economic crisis, that need is felt more heavily than ever, along with the importance of partnerships that work towards this goal and adapt to new challenges.

“Supporting business resilience for women entrepreneurs in the face of COVID-19 is vital to the communities and economies of low- and middle-income countries. Through this partnership, PayPal is helping to lead the global response by investing the time, resources and expertise of their staff into our virtual Mentoring programme. We are delighted that, by working with the Foundation, PayPal will be helping women all over the world to get through this crisis, keep their industries on their feet, and collectively forge a positive future.”

— Helen McEachern, CEO, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women


We’re seeking more partner companies for our enriching, impactful Mentoring programme, contributing workforce members to provide valuable business mentoring to a woman entrepreneur in a low or middle income country. The best part? They can do it all from home! Find out more here.

Banner image: Mentee Sofia
Body image: Mentee Hnin with Mentor Dessy

Start typing and press Enter to search