CIPE board chair and Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council President and CEO Karen Kerrigan is actively involved in many efforts to empower women, particularly through entrepreneurship. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, here are some of her insights on increasing women’s political and economic participation around the world.
CIPE: Some of the key aspects of women’s empowerment – political, economic and civic – are not fully understood around the world, especially when it comes to the inherent linkages between all three. How do you view them? Why do you think they are important and interconnected?
Karen Kerrigan: The voice and full participation of women in all realms – political, economic and civic – is essential to building and sustaining an inclusive, innovative, and opportunity-driven environment for countries and societies. Government policies and inequitable laws, for example, may erect roadblocks for women who want to start businesses or pursue certain careers. Similarly, economic opportunities and growth are limited for all citizens when a nation fails to harness the energy and value of half of its human capital assets.
The values of entrepreneurship and the values of democracy are deeply interconnected. Both are about individuals having a voice and direction in their destiny – and both require the right kind of environment to flourish.
This topic was explored at the World Entrepreneurship Forum in Lyon, France which I attended in late October. The gathering focused on strategies and best practices for strengthening the global ecosystem for entrepreneurship. Members of the Forum believe that entrepreneurs are the key source of wealth creation and social justice, so bolstering the environment and networks that help them succeed is critically important to the global economy.
Countries around the world are struggling to create economic opportunities for their citizens and entrepreneurship has grown in its appeal. Entrepreneurs create the enterprises and jobs that expand economies, and they are the font of new innovations that improve productivity and increase standards of living.
But entrepreneurship is much more than jobs and economic growth. A culture of entrepreneurship is a culture of empowerment, which helps to lower the barriers that in many places exclude women, young people, and minorities from economic and political participation.