Tag Archives: International Women’s Day

Profiting from Parity: The Business Case for Gender Integration in Value Chains


Photo: BURN Clean Cookstoves

Sustainable Development Goal 5 set the bar to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030. Closing gender gaps in work and society could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025, according to McKinsey Global Institute. This figure underscores the socioeconomic importance as well as global economic potential available if we achieve gender parity, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day Forum led by the United Nations and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The Forum is an annual, collective effort to convene government, private sector, and civil society and “put on our gender glasses” as one participant descriptively put it. Humbly, many stakeholders – both public and private – admitted this year that the data necessary to establish a baseline to then track our advancement towards this goal of gender parity remains either poor or non-existent. Examining both global value chains and individual business models through a gender lens allows for a foundation of knowledge that helps provide a clear understanding of how strategies and operations are influencing women’s empowerment.

Among the many conversations taking place during what should more aptly be named International Women’s Month, I found the dialogue around gender integration into business model and value chains particularly exciting. Encouragingly, more and more businesses are realizing that social impact and business profit do not always occur at the expense of one another. Not every company may aspire to be a social enterprise, but every company can become more gender inclusive by integrating women in product design, manufacturing, production, sales, and distribution channels within its value chain. In fact those that are integrating gender are, in turn, becoming more competitive. Companies from SMEs to multinationals can now tap into these social and economic impacts by adapting these lessons learned in the following areas into their own business models and value chains.

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Women Entrepreneurs Changing the Game in South Asia #IWD2016

Participants at a Women's Business Network meeting in Nepal in 2014.

Participants at a Women’s Business Network meeting in Nepal in 2014.

Here at CIPE, we are celebrating International Women’s Day by highlighting the achievements of the South Asia Regional Women’s Network, an informal group of 31 inspiring and empowered women from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Members of the network are business leaders and owners, board members, and senior managers who represent organizations with membership figures ranging from 100 direct members to nearly 4,000 members in Bangladesh.

They are women who have overcome great obstacles to build their careers, and their businesses, and are now giving back to other women seeking to do the same thing by building the capacity of their organization pushing for policy reform. Over the last four years, the network has come together nearly ten times to exchange information and best practices, to establish mentorship links between weaker and stronger organizations, and to build relationships between women in business, as well as between entire organizations, across the region.

Not long after the launch of this program, these organizations have grown in strength and numbers and have seen solid advocacy successes that have started to reshape economic policy, easing the burden of doing business for women and improving access to credit helping women to scale their businesses and bring more women into the workforce.

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Advocates for Change: The Role of Women Business Leaders in Achieving Gender Equality


International Women’s Day is an important opportunity to shine a light on the success stories of women around the world—and their perseverance to achieve equality despite legal, political, economic, and social discrimination. Entrenched gender discrimination continues to prevent women from contributing equally to their country’s overall economic growth and from owning their own capital, which in turns limits their political representation and social status.

Despite these obstacles, numerous grassroots women’s associations have worked tirelessly to train new female business leaders and empower them to become stakeholders in the economy, further enabling them to successfully demand more political and social recognition and inclusivity.

Three influential women leaders and business experts recently discussed the growing economic empowerment and entrepreneurship of women in the developing world in videos for  CIPE’s Development Institute. In these interviews, the discussants explain the vital contribution of women’s associations to not only the financial wellbeing and independence of women in society, but also to the overall economic development of a country.

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International Women’s Day Wrap-Up

women's day fb

Last week, in celebration of International Women’s Day, the CIPE Development Blog focused on stories of women’s empowerment from around the world:

And don’t forget to check out our Women’s Day Facebook photo album!

Empowered Women in Liberia: Their Voices Must Be Heard


Lawrence Yealue, II. is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at Accountability Lab

In Liberia, female participation in decision-making has long been limited to a few women who have fought tirelessly to be heard. Liberian society needs to take a critical look at the role of women across traditional, economic, political, religious, and social interactions. It is time for this silence to end and a new politics of inclusiveness and ownership be rolled out. This requires real decision-making by women rather than a semblance of participation and involvement.

Traditionally, Liberian women have been limited to domestic work, which involves fishing, gathering firewood, cooking, and cleaning. During town meetings, the women were given limited opportunity to contribute their ideas and were rarely selected as village chiefs. In ceremonies, they were expected to decorate and cook. Sadly, many of these traditions continue today.

Today, often the best economic opportunity for women is to work as petty traders, where they face great challenges: sleeping on the cold ground in cramped rooms to sell their goods in bad, often muddy conditions. Frequently involved in trading across borders, they bear great risk in traveling to Ghana, Nigeria, and beyond.

Women move our economy, but the economic decisions that affect them are still mostly made by men. How will the economy progress if the decisions around it are not inclusive?

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HeForShe: Engaging Men in Women’s Economic Empowerment


By Spogmay Ahmed

On September 20, 2014 the United Nations launched the HeForShe campaign, a worldwide effort to engage men in the promotion of women’s rights. Over 200,000 men and boys have since signed the pledge to support gender equality, and the social media movement has reached more than 1.2 billion people.

The HeForShe campaign’s most recent initiative, IMPACT 10x10x10, calls upon governments, businesses, and universities to take a more active role in promoting gender equality. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014 reveals a large discrepancy between men and women in their access to politics and economic empowerment.

In line with the theme for 2015 International Women’s Day – “Make it Happen” – IMPACT 10x10x10 offers those three key sectors guiding recommendations on how to enhance women’s roles in each respective community.

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Newsflash: Businesswomen Lead in Nicaragua

Mesa presidium

The draft Nicaraguan Businesswomen Agenda was presented during REN’s International Women’s Day forum on March 6, 2015. Speakers included Nicaraguan Minister of Industry and Commerce Orlando Solórzano and U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Phyllis Powers.

Empowered Businesswomen.” “Businesswomen Influence the Destinies of Other Women.” These two headlines ran in the March 7, 2015 editions of Nicaragua’s two leading newspapers, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario.

It is not unusual for Nicaraguan media to publish articles related to women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day. Women are prominent in the Nicaraguan political sphere, thanks in part to gender quotas encompassed in the Gender Equality Law and the revised Electoral Law. Nicaragua now ranks 11th in the world in the proportion of women in parliament, 40 percent – far above most other Latin American countries (and the United States, with 18 percent). International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight these advances.

What’s unusual in the case of the two articles linked above is the inclusion of one word: “Businesswomen.” Here is why.

Unfortunately the trend towards greater participation of women in the political sphere has been slow to spread to private sector organizations, which are key actors in advocating for policies that improve the business climate. A 2014 review conducted by the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN) of the 19 business organizations that form the umbrella private sector association the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) found that an average of 16 percent of board members are women. This is the same figure found by a similar study by the International Labor Organization in 2009.

Private sector organizations rarely incentivize women’s participation or provide equal access to information that can lead them to access leadership positions. As a result, there are very few private sector leaders promoting the specific interests and needs of women entrepreneurs in a substantial way.

On top of that, organizations of women entrepreneurs have historically operated based on incipient alliances and limited coordination with one another, resulting in disperse efforts to advocate for public policies that can improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs.

If this is the reality, are La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario’s articles simply fluff pieces scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day?

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