Marking Progress, Opportunities and Challenges on International Women’s Day 2012

Glen LeLievre, Australia. From the CIPE Global Editorial Cartoon Competition.

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day – an annual global event to celebrate the progress and achievements of women. The day also aims to inspire action, to ensure that progress continues to be made in improving the economic, political and social standing for so many women who still lack opportunity, education and equal status in many parts of the world.

Indeed, there is much work to be done. According to Booz and Company, 860 million women are not prepared to participate in the global economy. Tapping into this latent talent pool would yield enormous benefits for our global economy and for women politically. As Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, astutely observed at CIPE’s recent Democracy that Delivers for Women conference, “Economic empowerment is essential to women’s progress.”

Ambassador Verveer also noted, “The best ideas and innovation flourish in a diverse environment.” How true. A new report released by the National Women’s Business Council on March 1, found extraordinary growth in the number of U.S. patents granted to women in recent years. The largest increase was in 2010 when 22,984 patents were granted to women, a 35% jump over the previous year. Women held 18% of patents in 2010, compared to 14% in 2000, and only 9% in 1990.

Increasingly, women are adding to the innovative capacity of the U.S. Indeed, their ideas and innovations are helping to change the world. Imagine what 860 million “unprepared” women could do if they had access to the necessary education, mentors and capital to help propel them into a small business or career. Their nations – and our world – would have the benefit of tapping into their ingenuity, creativity and energy.

This type of challenge is why I am honored to be associated with CIPE. CIPE works to remove institutional and cultural barriers to women’s participation in society. Through its broad array of programs, CIPE builds linkages between educational, political, civic, and economic empowerment.  This holistic strategy is key to accelerating progress for women.

CIPE seeks to empower women entrepreneurs to achieve success beyond informal enterprises, by identifying barriers to entrepreneurship and providing relevant training, capacity building, and support through women’s associations. CIPE’s training work in developing women’s business associations is transformational; these entities have become a leading force to remove barriers and empower women to shape the future of their own countries. In other words, women learn to use their voice and influence, and then exert their own leadership to change their operating environment politically, culturally, and economically.

At CIPE, we celebrate and empower women every day. We join with our friends, colleagues and partners around in the world in recognizing International Women’s Day 2012.

Karen Kerrigan, Chair, CIPE.

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