Disrupting the Gender Digital Divide: What Role for International Trade Policy?

WTO Public Forum Session
Organised by
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and ICTSD
4 October 2018
Room E, WTO

Digital technologies offer women new opportunities to participate in international trade. Increased offshoring, servicification, and digitalisation in global value chains have enabled some developing countries to supply goods and services to businesses and final consumers. In theory, e-commerce offers women a number of advantages which include, amongst others, lower transaction costs, access to larger or new markets, and secure payment options. For women to seize these opportunities, a number of developments need to be taken into consideration such as supportive domestic policies and innovative trade and trade-related policies.

This session explored opportunities to design and implement trade policies that support women in e-commerce. Discussions covered analysis of the key regulatory constraints to women participation in e-commerce, potential solutions guided by multilateral and regional experience, and trade negotiator perspectives.

Main takeaways

  • There are markedly fewer women-led firms than male-led firms engaged in e-commerce. This reflects the structural challenges that women face in becoming business owners across the entire economy and appears not to be specific to e-commerce.
  • Smaller firms (whether run by women or men) are less likely to export, and face greater e-commerce-related constraints than their larger peers.
  • Two primary constraints are common across regions and countries for small firms engaged in e-commerce: regulatory bottlenecks and access to finance.
  • Recommendations to help female-led small firms engage in e-commerce include:
    • Promote women-led formal businesses, digitization, and online sales;
    • Facilitate customs clearance for e-commerce imports and exports;
    • Adopt digital regulations that enable small firms in e-commerce;
    • Improve the environment for FinTechs, including through a regulatory sandbox; and
    • Develop open banking for data-driven lending
  • The APEC Gender Inclusion Guidelines offer guidance on how to integrate gender-responsive approaches into APEC fora strategic and work plans, annual reports, and projects. They complement the principles outlined in the 1999 Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC.
  • Domestic reforms across the world are improving conditions for women participation in the economy. It is imperative for women participation in trade that the domestic policy level is engaged, alongside mobilising firms operating in supply chains and energising the regional level as experimental labs, in addition to sustaining gender focused discussions in the World Trade Organization.


This event was organised as part of the WTO Public Forum 2018


Patrice Braun is an Action Researcher with a PhD in regional network development underpinned by ICT and a Masters by Research on the use of the internet for community informatics. She is Principal Consultant at Patrice Braun & Associates and also holds an Adjunct Professorship in Research & Innovation at Federation University Australia. Her global research and consultancy work in economic inclusion and ICT-enabled development focuses on gender, entrepreneurship and the weaving of technology with sustainable economic, social, environmental, and governance practices. Patrice consults with government, organisations, non-profits and industry on gender and SME policy, inclusive standards and collaborative forms of capacity building. A seasoned speaker and contributor to ICT, trade and economic development forums, Patrice was the Australian focal point for a 5-year APEC research and capacity development program to enhance women’s participation in the digital economy. Prof Braun’s publications include gender-responsive ecosystems and trade practices, knowledge economy skilling, and female entrepreneurship as a path for economic empowerment and social change.

Andrew Crosby is part of ICTSD’s Senior Management team with responsibility for ICTSD’s publishing and communications. He leads ICTSD’s substantive work on the new economy (digital, services, innovation) and contributes to work on global governance, G20 and emerging economies (and previously on agriculture and food security). Mr. Crosby was ICTSD’s first programmes director from 1997 to 2002, a period that led to the establishment of ICTSD as a globally recognised leader on trade and sustainable development. He re-joined ICTSD in 2009. With a background in strategic communications, electoral politics, and organisational management, Mr. Crosby brings a passion for developing and translating policy discourse into action. He was a founder of the American Political Network in 1988 which produced, The Hotline, the first national daily journal on US politics. He earned a Master in Public Administration from John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 1996, and a BA in Political Science from New York University in 1985. He is citizen of the United States of America and currently resides in Switzerland.


Ms Amalie Giødesen Thystrup is a Post-Doctoral Researcher with the University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law, currently in Geneva as a Visiting Scholar with Graduate Institute (IHEID), Centre for Trade and Economic Integration (CTEI). Her post-doctoral research project examines anti-corruption and sanctions, and implications for shipping, branching out from her doctoral research in international trade. Amalie earned her PhD from the University of Copenhagen (2018) with a doctoral thesis exploring governance of trade in services, and focusing on trade integration and rulemaking. As part of her doctoral research, Amalie was a Visiting Scholar with the WTO, a Junior Visiting Fellow with the IHEID, and a stagiaire with the EU’s Mission to the WTO, Geneva. Amalie holds an LL.M from University of Copenhagen, and as part of her studies, she was an Erasmus Exchange student with University of Edinburgh. Furthermore, Amalie holds an LL.M from Benjamin N Cardozo School of Law, NY.


Mr. Richard Kamajugo is an International trade and Customs expert. He worked as Commissioner for Customs in Uganda before joining TradeMark East Africa where he is the Senior Director – Trade Environment. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Economics and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree from Makerere University in Uganda. He also holds a Diploma in Trade Policy. He has attended courses in Leadership conducted by the World Customs Organization, the University of Canberra and INSEAD Business School.  

Ms Frances Lisson PSM was appointed Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, WIPO and UNCTAD in January 2017. Prior to her posting in Geneva, Ms Lisson was responsible for Australia’s FTA negotiations with India and Indonesia. She previously led the negotiation of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) and was a lead negotiator for the China-Australia FTA and the Korea-Australia FTA.  Ms Lisson has a longstanding career in Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including postings to UN New York (2005-08), Ottawa (1997-2001), Tokyo (1995-96) and Suva (1992-94).  She has extensive experience in trade policy and represented Australia in the GATT Uruguay and WTO Doha Negotiating Rounds.  She led Australian delegations to the OECD Trade Committee and was Vice Chair of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 15). Ms Lisson holds a Bachelor of Economics (ANU) and a post graduate diploma in international relations (ANU).

Founder & CEO of Nextrade Group that helps governments and Fortune 500s optimize public policies and investment in driving trade and ecommerce worldwide; and Founder and Chairwoman of TradeUp Capital Fund, a growth capital platform for globalizing tech companies to raisedebt and equity from institutional investors. Adjunct Professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management; writing 10th book on international trade. Idea woman behind international initiatives such as eTrade for All now championed by the United Nations, and RTA Exchange, a global dialogue forum on regional trade agreements led by the Inter-American and Asian Development Banks with ICTSD. High-level speaking engagements on trade, e.g. at Davos, World Trade Symposium, Global Trade Review conference, WTO, etc. Senior Advisor to the B20-affiliated World SME Forum. Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. MBA, Wharton; PhD, UC San Diego.