Women entrepreneurs at a networking even in New Delhi. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
By Laura Boyette and Teodora Mihaylova
Including women in the economy is not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing for a country’s economic growth. Women’s participation in the workforce is potentially a major source of global economic growth and job creation, and yet a recently released World Bank report finds that nearly 90 percent of 143 countries studied contain at “least one legal difference restricting women’s economic opportunities.”
Women make up half of the world’s population, yet face many more cultural, legal, familial, religious, and economic barriers than men to entering the market. These impediments limit women’s ability to provide for themselves and their families, depriving them of the essential human right of autonomy in their decisions, economic opportunities, and the ability to petition the government or have access to institutions. These barriers also deprive countries of significant GDP growth and stand in the way of attaining full development goals. Previous CIPE blogs have discussed the merits of closing the economic participation gender gap, how gender equity is an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda, and the fact that women are natural entrepreneurs but lack resources to develop skills.
The Women, Business and the Law report, recently introduced at the Brookings Institution, examines the legal and regulatory barriers to women’s participation in the workforce through seven indicators: gaining access to institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, going to court, and protecting women from violence.
Women are essential to peaceful, democratic development of their societies. As the UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka noted in a recent speech on the role of Syrian women in the peace process, ”By including the perspectives of half the population, the path is paved for a society built on the principles of inclusion and justice.” In recent years, that fact has become more widely recognized, with many new local and international institutions and initiatives aimed at helping women achieve their full potential and participate on equal footing in the political, economic, and civic lives of their countries.
I was happy to see that Georgetown University, my alma mater, took active leadership in elevating the discussion and research on the importance of women for a more stable, peaceful and just world through the creation of the Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS). The establishment of the Institute was announced by Georgetown’s President John J. DeGioia and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Georgetown on December 19, 2011 when the Secretary unveiled the United States’ National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
Posted in Global
Tagged peace, women
Participants at a recent capacity building workshop for women’s chambers in South Asia.
At CIPE, we take a systemic and institutional approach to supporting entrepreneurship. Systemic in that unlike other organizations, rather than providing training or microloans to individual entrepreneurs, we seek to understand the policy barriers that often make it difficult to register firms, access credit, or conduct business. Institutional in that we support the efforts of civil society organizations – chambers of commerce and business associations – that seek to engage and advocate with policymakers to eliminate those barriers.
In the case of promoting women entrepreneurs, CIPE has focused in a wide range of countries on building the capacity and strengthening the governance of women’s chambers and association, thus making them more effective participants in that advocacy process.
Recently, a group of CIPE staffers took part in an informal email discussion that illuminates certain aspects of our approach to working with these organizations, which we wanted to share with readers of this blog. The conversation began when Julie Mancuso, Program Officer for Africa, wrote to several of her colleagues: “I am curious as to best models for women’s chambers and whether separate is usually better. Should women be engaged ideally through a strong local chamber, rather than starting their own, organized primarily around gender? Is this an area of debate or is there an agreed-upon model one way or the other?” Her specific question concerned her work with a coalition of women’s business associations that are weighing the relative merits of creating their own chamber or operating under the umbrella of the national chamber.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the gender gap, especially when it comes to economic participation. For everyone who is interested in human rights and understands that involving women in all aspects of government and business only improves dialogue and strengthens democracy, while at the same time rapidly improving the living standards of these women and their families, this fact is frustrating.
No one can deny that women are industrious, innovative, and enterprising, and that given the opportunity and resources, women can be very successful in business and in democratic and economic reform processes. We’ve moved beyond the debate of whether women “can” to the debate of “If they can, why aren’t they? What’s preventing them?”
Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director, Head of the World Economic Forum’s Women Leader and Gender Parity Programme, visits the New York Stock Exchange with partner companies on International Women’s Day 2012. (Photo: WEF)
Women represent more than half of the world’s population and yet no single country has achieved full gender parity. A country’s global competitiveness depends on utilizing the human capital of its entire workforce, including the untapped skills and knowledge of women. Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has published its annual Global Gender Gap Report as a means of assessing and quantifying the state of gender equality in the world. The report focuses on four main factors that make-up individual country’s scores: “economic participation and opportunity, education attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.”
Low primary and secondary enrollment for girls threatens Pakistan’s economic future. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The World Economic Forum has once again put Pakistan at the bottom of its index ranking “gender gaps” in economics, politics, education, and health. Last year, Pakistan ranked 132 out of 134 countries, down from 127 the year before. This year there is no change in the overall ranking, however the report suggests that the state of gender-based biases in Pakistan remains abominable — and worse, stagnant.
While women make up over 51 of the population in Pakistan, only 3 percent of women participate actively in the economy. Thanks to CIPE efforts in 2006, Pakistani women now have the right to form business associations, and as a result there are eight registered women business associations in the country. Additionally, every chamber in Pakistan now has to elect two women members to its board. But gender equality is still a major issue in the country. The recent Gender Gap Report also mentions that while the gap between men and women has narrowed slightly in most countries during the past year, Pakistan still ranks the lowest in Asia and the Pacific region.
Yesterday I wrote about how CIPE is helping women business leaders to break down barriers in South Asia – both barriers between countries and barriers that are keeping women out of the economic mainstream. CIPE’s third networking and training session for the heads of women’s chambers of commerce and business associations, held on September 18-20 in Lahore, Pakistan, was a resounding success, including a dinner at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce that drew the Governor of Punjab as a featured speaker.
But we also wanted to take some time to focus on the training program itself, and the results of the hard work that these women are putting in to building their organizations. There is no shortage of programs in South Asia to build links among women entrepreneurs – to encourage trade and business ties – but CIPE is focused on strengthening the capacity of the chambers and associations, both so they can better represent their members in the policy process, and help their members grow their own businesses.