Celebrating the Power of Numbers

Where would we be without numbers? We womenablers know well that women business owners would still be all but invisible if not for statistics that show:

  • women are starting businesses at a faster rate than their male counterparts,
  • despite that fact, women-owned firms lag all firms with respect to number of employees and revenues, and
  • while gender gaps are closing in education and health indicators, and there is growing gender parity in terms of political participation, it is in the area of economic participation and entrepreneurship where the largest gaps remain.

It is often said that what does not get measured does not get managed, so what better way to improve the situation of humankind than to measure – and to celebrate measurement.
That’s the thought behind the first-ever World Statistics Day, being celebrated around the globe on October 20: 2010-20.10. The UN Statistics Office website lists a number of activities being held (pun intended) to celebrate statistics. Among them:

  • In Canada, Statistics Canada is throwing a party for their staff, and celebrating the role that Canada plays in supporting information-gathering domestically and internationally,
  • In Germany, the German Federal Statistics Office is hosting a conference entitled “What drives politics – How relevant is statistics?” at the Social Science Research Centre in Berlin, and
  • in Qatar, the Qatar Statistical Authority will be releasing their 2010 Census of Population, Households, and Establishments – and announcing a plan for public use of the results.

There’s even a Facebook page for the initiative, which you can “like.” (We have, of course.) So, join us in a hearty cheer: “All hail the number-crunchers of the world”!

2010 WEF Global Gender Gap Report published

It’s out: the fifth annual ranking, from the World Economic Forum, of how 134 world economies are faring in providing gender equality to their citizens in four key areas: economic participation, education, political empowerment and health. As in past years, Nordic countries come out on top. The top five-ranked countries in 2010 are the same as they were in 2009:
Global Gender Gap report cover
1) Iceland
2) Finland
3) Norway
4) Sweden
5) New Zealand

The Global Gender Gap Report’s index assesses countries on how well they divide resources and opportunities amongst male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources. The report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas by tracking the following indicators:

  • Economic participation and opportunity: outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment;
  • Educational attainment: outcomes on access to basic and higher level education;
  • Political empowerment: outcomes on representation in decision-making structures; and
  • Health and survival: outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio.

As this is the fifth year of the effort, the report contains some assessments of progress made. Among 144 economies studied in all five years, 86% show progress in narrowing gender gaps in these areas, while 14% are regressing.

It’s also the case, however, that progress has been uneven, taking place in some areas of empowerment more than in others. It is no surprise to Womenable that progress in greater gender parity in economic empowerment is lagging the most. Says one of the study’s co-authors, Ricardo Hausmann, Director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University, “We have found that gaps are closing between women and men’s health and education – in fact, current data show that in the 134 countries covered, 96% of health gaps and 93% of education gaps have been closed. And, yet only 60% of economic participation gaps have been closed. Progress will be achieved when countries seek to reap returns on the investment in health and education of girls and women by finding ways to make marriage and motherhood compatible with the economic participation of women.”

To read the study’s press release or to download and read the full report, click on these links, or go to the main WEF Gender Gap Network web page. It’s worth putting on your Womenabling reference shelf!

Conversations on ‘Women in Power’ in Canada

It’s a provocative title for a series, and an opening salvo in a series of discussions online and in Canada’s leading newspaper, The Globe and Mail. Entitled, “Canada: Our Time to Lead,” the series will feature stories and conversations on eight important topics, one of which is Women in Power.

A look at the stories and video/photo features so far this month (which is Women’s History Month in Canada – this year’s theme is “Recognizing Canadian Women in Business”) is impressive. Here is a sampling:

CLICK HERE to view and bookmark the series page; you’ll want to save it and check in on the stories as they unfold. Three cheers to The Globe and Mail for launching this conversation.

Lighting Candles in Rwanda

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.” ~
Margaret Fuller (1819-1850), early American feminist and activist

Womenable has long known and valued the simple yet profound act of illumination, of creating a spark that can grow from a small light to a mighty flame. Indeed, Womenable’s mission is to create those sparks of action for women’s enterprise development, by shining the light of knowledge on the characteristics, contributions and challenges of women business owners and by ensuring that the systems that support women’s enterprise development – laws, policies and programs – are as effective as possible.

That’s what has taken me to Rwanda three times over the past 18 months; to investigate the state of women’s enterprise development there, make recommendations for action on a number of fronts (download and read this report to learn what we found and what was recommended), and to light a small fire by delivering women’s leadership development workshops in four cities there: Huye, Musanze, Rwamagana, and the capital city of Kigali.

I’m just back from three weeks helping to deliver these workshops, and I’m pleased to say that our small spark is already catching fire. Our team effort – led by Booz Allen Hamilton, funded by USAID, and with contributions from trainers from the Private Sector Federation’s Business Development Services team, Duterimbere trainers and training materials, and the participation of local government and banking officials – helped over 200 women business owners expand their personal business vision and, more importantly, to see that by working together they can help other women start their own businesses and raise their voices to improve conditions for business development in general in their communities.

Our keynote speaker was Rehmah Kasule, a woman entrepreneur from Uganda, who not only shared her story of personal will and triumph, but of the need for business vision and branding and the value and reward of mentoring. She has started women’s mentoring clubs in Uganda, led a mentoring walk there (read her blog about that here) and is involved in youth mentorship as well. Her message about the value of mentoring, saying that “if you let others light a candle from your flame, it will add light without diminishing your own glow,” resonated well everywhere we went. What a woman!

We also heard from successful women business owners in Rwanda, who agreed to travel to cities to share their personal stories and give inspiration to others. Several of the women were graduates of the Oklahoma-based Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women‘s Peace Through Business program, now heading into its 3rd year in Rwanda. They have taken the program’s “pay it forward” message to heart. What a great group of women. Way to go, Terry Neese!

I made a small contribution, by sharing news on international trends in women’s enterprise development – so they would know how much they share in common with women business owners around the world – and on the principles and missions of women’s business associations in comparison with mentoring groups.

But, lest you think it was all work and no play (well, truthfully, it was nearly all work), here’s a sampling of what we delivered at these workshops, and how the women responded. At the beginning of the first day in each city, there was some apprehension and the women were quiet. Simultaneous translation and the equipment that it requires was new and a little daunting to them at first. But by the middle of that day, and certainly by day two, the women were chatting with one another, enjoying asking questions and hearing translation from English to Kinyarwanda and back again, and singing songs of praise. And – in two of the cities – they have already taken steps to form business associations, even opening a bank account for the group in one city. It was a very rewarding experience for all of us.

So, think about where you might help to light a candle. What knowledge do you have that others would benefit from? Because, as the old song goes, “if everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.”