A New “Women’s Economic Opportunity Index” Joins Other Gender Equality Indices: Close, But No Cigar

A new gender equality index enters the fray, this time from The Economist magazine’s Economist Intelligence Unit. The Women’s Economic Opportunity Index is comprised of 26 indicators grouped into five main areas – labor policy and practice, access to finance, education and training, women’s legal and social status, and general business environment – and purports to “evaluate every aspect of the economic and social value chain for women, from fertility to retirement.”
WEO report cover
However – as with other gender equality indices (including the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index and the UN’s Gender Development Index) – entrepreneurial activity is not part of the equation.

What countries come out on top in the EIU-WEO Index?

  • Sweden
  • Belgium
  • Norway
  • Finland
  • Germany

However, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor surveys, these countries have a relatively low share of adult women engaging in entrepreneurial behavior:

  • Sweden, 5% of adult women own a business
  • Belgium, 3%
  • Norway, 8%
  • Finland, 10%
  • Germany, 5%

Certainly economic opportunity includes more than self-employment, but until these international indices include some aspect of entrepreneurial behavior, they will not capture the full extent of women’s economic opportunity. Easier said than done, however. The main reason such data are not included is that this invaluable information is not yet available to the same extent as are health, education, labor, and political data. More’s the pity.

Entrepreneurship Community Loses Shining Light

Dr. Cindy Iannarelli, founder of Bernelli University, active entrepreneurship educator, and enthusiastic teacher of youth enterprise, was killed last week in India while vacationing with her son. For details of the story, follow these links:

Womenable has crossed paths with Cindy numerous times over the years, dating from 1993 when she was the first executive director of the National Education Center for Women in Business at Seton Hill College in Pennsylvania. We will miss her energy, enthusiasm, and positive spirit.

Provocative New Study Sheds Light on Women Business Owners in Saudi Arabia

A new study on women’s businesses in Saudi Arabia not only sheds an important light on the economic strength and contributions of women entrepreneurs in that country, but has made some bold policy and programmatic recommendations as well.

The report, “Businesswomen in Saudi Arabia: Characteristics, Challenges, and Aspirations in a Regional Context,” was co-authored by Noura Alturki and Rebekah Braswell and published by the Monitor Group and Al-Sayedah Khadijah bint Khuwailad Businesswomen’s Center of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The study used a survey instrument format similar to that which was employed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR) in a 5-country study among women business owners in the MENA region conducted in 2007. That comparative study was designed with the assistance of Womenable, which also wrote the regional analysis report. (See THIS LINK for more information on that study.)

The Saudi report not only highlighted the personal and business characteristics of women business owners in Saudi Arabia, but their concerns as well. While the study shows women business owners there to be largely positive and determined to expand into new markets and grow their business networks, it also highlights a number of challenges that these entrepreneurial women feel stand in their way, including:

  • government regulations,
  • limited access to and use of formal capital,
  • the need for increased integration of sophisticated marketing and technology tools into business operations, and
  • a lack of key support services, including day-care centers and public transportation.

The study made eight specific recommendations to Saudi policymakers to improve the situation of businesswomen. Among them, it called for the establishment of a Ministry of Women’s Affairs, urged that women be appointed as members of the now all-male Shoura Council, suggested ending the requirement that women must appoint a male manager in businesses that serve both sexes, and recommended easing current restrictions on women’s mobility in terms of public transportation, driving and international travel.

To read some of the news coverage of this ground-breaking study, click on the following links:

And for a copy of the full 68-page report, click on these links to download the study in ENGLISH or ARABIC.

Womenable was pleased and honored to have played a small role in consulting with the project authors on the design and comparability of the study.