I believe entrepreneurs are the foundation for innovation, economic growth, and job creation and have made it my personal mission to give back to the entrepreneurial community and to empower women around the world to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. My work as part of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council and my role as Dell’s entrepreneur-in-residence have given me a platform to reach entrepreneurs on a global scale in ways that would not have been possible on my own.
Empowering women worldwide and investing in their futures can help drive growth in the global economy and promote economic vitality and security. According to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap report, the U.S. has experienced 11 percent growth over the last 40 years as a direct result of the increased participation of women, which has translated into $3.5 trillion. If the barriers to female labor force participation were reduced, the Gross Domestic Product of a country like Japan would grow 16 percent. In fact, the developing nations that have made investments in women have seen gains that have added more to global growth than China.
Investing in women also promotes economic and social development as women reinvest in their communities and homes. In both developed and developing economies, savings rise and spending shifts toward food, health, and education as women gain power over household income.
Creating a global impact requires collaboration between governments, international organizations, the private sector, and individuals. Last year, Dell launched the Pay it Forward initiative to use the power of women’s networks to expand opportunities for women entrepreneurs. The campaign works on the premise that if each of us helps a business owner advance — and that woman, in turn, supports another — then we can create a global community of women supporting women and our initial efforts will create a ripple effect. Through this process, Dell has set a goal to track support for 1 million women entrepreneurs by the end of 2015.
It’s been great to see all the ways in individuals and organizations are taking it upon themselves to support women and girls in the developing world.
The UN Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation recently released A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment, which identifies interventions that increase productivity and earnings for different groups of women in diverse country contexts. The project commissioned studies of entrepreneurship (as well as farming and wage employment) in developing countries and draws lessons based on the best available evidence of what works.
• Proven interventions in entrepreneurship include savings for all women, credit for non-poor women, business management training for non-poor women, and in-kind asset transfers plus training and technical assistance for very poor and poor women.
• Promising interventions include using mobile phones for financial services and market information for all women, consulting services for poor and non-poor women, and in-kind capital transfers (rather than cash) for poor women.
• Finally, high potential interventions, which require further research, include business associations and networks for all women, and mentors and role models for young women.
One example of using micro-financing to make entrepreneurship possible for women is the Mukuru Slums Project. Dell recently teamed with this organization to certify women from the Mukuru slums in Nairobi to responsibly collect and recycle e-waste, turning what was an unsafe activity into a legitimate job with decent wages. Following the satisfactory completion of a training course, women use seed funding delivered through mobile technology to purchase and resell waste – and part of those proceeds then go to the funding of the next group of women to become certified recyclers. Since launching two months ago, the project has already financed and created jobs for 27 women.
These are just a few examples of what is being done worldwide to help empower girls and women to become entrepreneurs and business owners. Closing the gender gap requires global collaboration, and our collective efforts can create greater prosperity for us all.