It’s no surprise that women hold the key to our future. Not only in the obvious sense, as it is women who will give birth to future generations, but women entrepreneurs and leaders are changing the corporate, political, and economic landscapes. Despite the fact that only 3% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are women, the McKinsey Women Matter team found that the qualities that are most respected in leaders by business executives – intellectual stimulation, inspiration, participatory decision-making and setting expectations/rewards – are found most commonly in women. The world is starting to make room for women leaders, and the women who are stepping up to the plate are radically changing the way things are done.
Investing in Women
Huge companies, like Google, and newly established social-cause businesses, like Kiva, are focusing on investing in women. Recognizing that the need for true leaders is only growing and that women, despite being of equal talent to men, are still largely unable to rise to positions of leadership, Google has launched the #40 forward initiative, which will invest a total of $1 million in companies that encourage female participation and entrepreneurship.
Kiva, a non-profit that hopes to alleviate poverty through lending, connects lenders with borrowers in a worldwide network. The premise is that the lenders initial loan will be repaid once the borrower’s business is successful, and the lender can continue to invest in other businesses, donate to Kiva, or keep the money. Kiva is particularly devoted in encouraging lenders to invest in women, urging us to “invest in their potential.” It seems that there is a global awakening to the long overlooked potential of women, and companies are doing their best to allow women to overcome societal and cultural barriers.
This is evidenced in the new emphasis on providing the platform for young girls to aim to be leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Toy development company, Goldie Blox, wants to increase the number of female engineers (females account for only 13% of engineers worldwide) and they’re using their toys to develop and capitalize on the innate skills that will serve girls well in the engineering field. They’ve already made history by being the first small business to air an ad during Super Bowl and one that focuses on empowering girls no less.
When it comes down to it, all of these companies are allowing women to imagine new possibilities for themselves. Every female-centric initiative is a way of saying, “We believe in you…and we need you.” This is a message that many young girls and women do not often get to hear, and it’s vital, as the success of entrepreneurial activity is strongly linked to perceptions of capability and opportunity. While this is encouraging for women, it’s mutually beneficial for local and global development.
The Local and Global Effect of Women Leaders
The World Economic Forum has consistently found that there is a strong correlation between equality and national competitiveness. If the gender gap closed, gross domestic product could increase by 16%. Not only that, but in the areas where women’s participation grows the fastest, poverty rates are largely decreased.
Fortunately, woman-owned businesses are on the rise. Globally, women-owned entities accounts for approximately 37% of enterprises, and according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), 224 million women, in 67 of the countries recognized by the World Bank, are currently impacting the global economy.
The effect of these women entrepreneurs and business owners on the world is staggering in its depth.
Compared to the 30-40% that men invest, women invest an incredible 90% of every additional dollar earned into their families’ education, health and nutrition. They’re also creating jobs. Of the 224 million women entrepreneurs that the GEM surveyed, 112 million employ 1-2 people and 12 million expect to employ up to six employees in the next five years. The potential for job creation that women-owned businesses offer is particularly significant in the United States. Since the U.S recession six years ago, women-owned firms are the only privately owned businesses that have provided a net increase in employment.
Inspiring a New Generation of Women Leaders
In his speech for this year’s International Women’s Day, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the importance of empowering women, declaring that, “The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”
He went on to explain that countries with countries with more gender equality have better economic growth, peace agreements that include women are more durable, and parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support.
So why aren’t more women rising up to positions of leadership?
Quite simply, women are oppressed in a way that men are not. Of the estimated $2.5 billion people who live on less than $2 a day, 70% of them are women. We know that women can positively impact our world, but they have to be given the opportunity to do so.
How do we change this?
First, if you’re a woman contemplating starting your own business or following a path traditionally dominated by men: Go for it. Second, get educated about the oppression of women that’s still happening worldwide and on the proven positive impact women have. Then, most importantly do everything you can to support the empowerment of women and the closing of the gender gap. Women can change the world, but first we have to believe we can.
My mission is to change the world one woman at a time by helping women to CorePower their lives and business, discovering the true wealth within, what’s yours?