What’s Next for She’s Next | Interview with Cristina Doros

Supporting and promoting female leadership, women’s empowerment, and access to education has always been a priority for Visa – world’s leader in digital payments. She’s Next Empowered by Visa – a global initiative that aims to provide knowledge, experience, and expertise to women all over the world – was brought to Georgia. Cristina Doros, regional manager for the Caucasus region at Visa shares her views about the impact of the project and Visa’s internal and external strategies for contributing to female empowerment.

Photo Credits to Giorgi Tsiklauri

What opportunities does Visa, as the world leader in digital payments, create for female entrepreneurs, specifically in the Caucasian region?

As the leader in technology, Visa provides many opportunities to influence people’s lives, always looking for the ways to improve their experience as customers engage with Visa solutions and via them connect to the secure, fast, convenient payment system. We provide a network that empowers and allows people to effectively manage their finances, be it setting a new company, start accepting payments, transferring money, or simply shopping and paying their regular payment etc. Beyond providing top quality services, Visa’s vision and purpose is to bring value and make impact in the markets and the countries we operate in, including Caucasus, and specifically Georgia. We do this to bring communities together and contribute to their development and growth. This is why we focus specifically on small and medium businesses, and within that group, we focus on female entrepreneurs.

The world is developing, and we are driven to develop with it. We are happy to see so many movements worldwide that support females in every sense. We see how diverse our client base is, and therefore want to be as diverse in our initiatives and actions as they are.

We all know that small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of every economy in the world. They are the largest employers in the world and the largest contributors to GDPs of every country. That’s why we are very passionate about supporting small and medium businesses, helping them gain knowledge and education, and helping them strengthen and grow. Women entrepreneurs take a special place within small and micro businesses and Visa is committed to support this group in particular.

Women have many additional roles they play, being mothers, caregivers, etc. Alongside with that, they want to be able to run and develop their own business. Doing all of that takes guts and strength. Therefore, global initiatives like Visa’s She’s Next aim to empower women, give them knowledge, experience, necessary tools, and, most importantly, motivation. Because ultimately, whatever women do, their core motivation becomes the indicator of success. That is why we brought Visa’s She’s Next to Georgia.

Let’s get into the details of the project, „She’s Next.“ What positive changes specifically can this project bring?

Firstly, it gives voice to female entrepreneurs. When giant companies like Visa support a cause, it contributes to creating a platform that strengthens women and helps their voices be heard globally. Female entrepreneurs are allowed to share their struggles, ideas, and insights and represent a female segment’s united voice.

Secondly, the project brings the knowledge, expertise and skills women need in their professional development as entrepreneurs. It focuses on many necessary educational areas on how to run the business, elaborate on a business plan, digitize the business, and apply for a loan because funding is one of the biggest issues. Thirdly, the network created through “She’s Next” unites successful female entrepreneurs, role models and invites them to share their wisdom, knowledge, experience and inspiration with younger generations who are now entering the field, therefore empowering the female community to strive for change and growth.

How important it is for huge companies to commit to women’s economic empowerment, not just in terms of corporate social responsibility, but as a fundamental direction that the company acquires for its own benefit as well. How does this change the global picture?

I remember a quote from an American military officer. He said, “If you want to change the world, start with making your bed every morning.” This is a good analogy to Visa’s internal and external social responsibility strategy. When we say we want to change the world in terms of gender inequality – we start with us. Within the company, we have an important range of activities to support diversity and inclusion in a wide sense, and women empowerment is one of the aspects.

There are certain commitments within the company on supporting female professional growth, supporting underrepresented minorities in the United States and other countries where it’s crucial. As for our external strategy, – we believe in our core purpose to have our payment tools, technologies, and other services aligned with the needs of extremely diverse groups of consumers and clients.

One of the distinguished initiatives in this regard would be the Visa Foundation we set up some time ago. Now Visa has pledged 210 million dollars into that foundation, which will be spent specifically on developing and supporting small and medium businesses, and once again within that group, we will specifically focus on female entrepreneurs.

Photo Credits to Giorgi Tsiklauri

She’s Next empowered by Visa global Initiative has conducted research in Georgia that analyzed and surveyed female entrepreneurs and business owners to better understand their attitudes and experiences. What are the main insights of that research? What are the key findings?

The scope of the project „She’s Next“ in Georgia was roll-out in several directions. With Forbes Women Georgia, we’ve launched a platform „She’s Next, empowered by Visa“ where successful self-made women share their empowering stories and inspire female entrepreneurs, newcomers, but also those interested in developing their business. In partnership with the organization “Women for Tomorrow,” we hosted a series of webinars for more than 600 female entrepreneurs. We have invited the most prominent speakers, female speakers in Georgia, who share their knowledge of crisis management, negotiation skills, setting up a business, etc., practical, valuable knowledge which could be applied to everyday operations. We want to keep these women engaged and connected. Therefore, we set up a Facebook page group to share interesting, useful, and valuable information and allow the members to interact constantly.

Another important part of the project, as you pointed out, was a research that aimed to understand: What is driving women to run businesses? What are the main obstacles? What are the key drivers? What is the uptake of digitalization? What is the view on funding opportunities?

We believe all of those insights will be very helpful to us as a company, to banks, to the community, as we are planning on actively sharing these insights with the general audience, and all the interested stakeholders to make sure these results will be translated into necessary decisions and solutions.

As for the results, it was interesting to see that the key areas where women focus their intent to do business are commerce and services. This was expected, however, it additionally revalidated our approach. 74% of women said they would like to have more education, more knowledge, and advice in certain areas such as payment systems, new technologies dealing with crisis and stress, and getting additional funding. We try to cover these topics in the webinars. Interestingly, 81% of women said they felt more confident after receiving advice and knowledge about running a business. Again, these results speak to the importance of our approach towards the beneficiaries and their services because they feel the positive impact.

Also, only 37% percent of respondents said they are thinking about shifting their business into the digital world, which is fairly low but understandable. This emphasizes why we really need to continue our educational efforts. 65% said it was tough for them to see the opportunities of going digital. I wouldn’t say it’s concerning – it’s a natural picture. However, it indicates where our focus should be in terms of helping small and medium businesses understand the value of digitalization and focusing our efforts in that direction.

As for the interview’s last question, What’s next for „She’s Next?“

Speaking broadly from business perspective – we continue to invest funds and resources, knowledge, and technologies into the Caucasus and Georgia. We are really very committed to continuing this project because we see the positive impact of it as well as other Visa-led initiatives to support local business recovery. Specifically, I can say that we will be looking at the development of online or e-commerce and the direction of female entrepreneurship, helping them get their way into online sales, for instance. And we will also be extending our network of successful and established female professionals, helping them connect, reconnect, continue to share knowledge, and find strength, inspiration, and experience within that network.