Australian women entrepreneurs making social change can share in US$190,000 in grants

Cartier Women's Initiative

CWI global program director Wingee Sampaio. Source: supplied.

Australian entrepreneurs who are striving to solve social and environmental problems will have a greater chance to share in US$190,000 ($270,000) in grant funding under changes to the global Cartier Women’s Initiative (CWI), unveiled this month. 

While local entrepreneurs have been able to enter the prestigious awards since they began in 2006, for the first time this year Australia and New Zealand will be included in a new Oceania category, alongside Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Island, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

At the same time, Cartier has also created a new thematic category for the 2023 CWI, in addition to the existing science and tech pioneer category, which was established in 2021. This new diversity, equity and inclusion award will become the first category in the awards’ history to be open to both women and men. 

The goal of the Cartier’s Women’s Initiative is to help create “a world in which every woman entrepreneur can really realise their full potential”, explains CWI global program director Wingee Sampaio.

To be eligible, entrepreneurs must be working towards solving one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals via launching a business and have “impact embedded in their business”, says Sampaio.

Cash grants are on offer to three entrepreneurs from each of the nine regions, with US$100,000 ($142,000) going to the regional winner and two runners up receiving US$60,000 ($85,000) and US$30,000 ($42,000), respectively. Prizes of the same amounts will be awarded to the winners and runners up of the thematic awards too.

Since the CWI was launched in 2006, a total of US$6.4 million in grants have been awarded to 262 women from 62 countries.

Previous Australian fellows include finalists Edwina Sharrock, founder of Birth Beat (2021), Jenna Leo, founder of Like Family (2020), and laureate Joanne Howarth, founder of Planet Protector Packaging (2020).

Cartier Women's Initiative

2020 laureate from Australia, Joanne Howarth of Planet Protector Packaging. Source: supplied.

Speaking to SmartCompany from Paris, Sampaio says award winners are also introduced to the Cartier Women’s Initiative network of investors, to create “more visibility and relationships with capital sources”, and offered both social capital support through mentorship and coaching from more than 400 supporters of the initiative, and human capital support via resources and tools to improve their entrepreneurial skills.

“Oftentimes women entrepreneurs who are pursuing their journey, they are first-time entrepreneurs, and they are not surrounded by other entrepreneurs who are women,” said Sampaio.

“And I think the journey of entrepreneurship for women is different because for women, life moments are quite different. The most obvious one is for sure motherhood if they choose to be on that path and balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship, but also we know women are often the primary caretakers for many families in terms of the elderly and others. 

“So there’s a lot to juggle and I think the journey of entrepreneurship is more than a full-time job.”

Sampaio says the decision to create a new Oceania category comes from a desire to create “greater momentum” for, and provide more opportunities to, social impact entrepreneurs in the region.

“I think over the past two-and-a-half years, the general consensus is that the world as a whole is very behind reaching the UN SD goals and I think the last year also gave global citizens a moment to reflect on the role that everyone can play in moving towards the development goals,” said Sampaio.

“This is one of the reasons why it’s really important and critical to make sure women and others who are not represented are part of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, and to leverage business as a form of social and environmental change.”

Entries are now open for the 2023 CWI and the finalists will be announced in April 2023, followed by the winners in May 2023. More information is available from the CWI website.


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