App Happiness for Womenablers

Are you a womenabling data junkie like we are? Well, get ready to enter womenabling data nirvana – there are now some wonderful women’s entrepreneurship reports available for smartphone and iPad, as well as (bestill my beating heart) data-finding apps for the smartphone. Here’s a roundup:

  • The US Census Bureau has just launched America’s Economy, a smartphone app that will allow quick (well, not so quick – it loads slowly) access to the latest business stats. No women-specific stats yet, but the recently improved American FactFinder provides very ready access to the 2007 economic census data,
  • The World Bank recently launched a new Data Finder smartphone app, containing a wealth of development statistics by country and by topic – including gender,
  • The World Bank’s seminal 2012 World Development Report, Gender Equality and Development, is available as an e-publication for iPad, and
  • a lush, photo-rich e-publication app, Women of the World – from Olivier Martel, Fotopedia and the World Bank – is also available and well worth downloading from the iTunes store.

Click on and get app happy!

Empowering Women by Empowering Trade

Accessing new markets is an important avenue to greater growth for businesses, and a more laser-like focus on issues of spurring growth among women-owned enterprises is the next stage of the women’s enterprise movement. So says Womenable President & CEO Julie Weeks in an article in the most recent issue of the International Trade Centre’s International Trade Forum. Download and read the entire issue, Empowering Women, Empowering Trade at this link.

The ITC is helping fuel this next stage for women’s enterprise development in two exciting ways:

  1. By spearheading a Women Vendors Exposition and Forum, which provides an opportunity for trade-focused women business owners to meet potential international buyers. The second annual Expo is coming up on November 6-7 in Mexico City. Find out more at this link; and
  2. By launching a new program in Africa to help improve access to international markets for women business owners there. The ACCESS! Export Development Programme aims at assisting over 2,500 women entrepreneurs. Click here to read a fact sheet about the program.

Is Separate Ever Equal?

I’ve found myself pondering this question, as school sessions get underway. Earlier this year, I visited Kosovo and Macedonia, speaking on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship (naturally) to a number of audiences – including a high school class in Tetovo, a town not too far from Macedonia’s capital city, Skopje. It was a fantastic experience, and I was delighted to engage in a lively dialogue with the students, male and female alike.

While there, though, I learned that the school classes are segregated within the same building, with the classes being taught in Macedonian (with a largely Eastern Orthodox Christian population) held at different times of the day or on different days than those taught in Albanian (for a largely Muslim population). It reminded me of another trip not too long ago to Belfast in Northern Ireland, where – although “the troubles” have largely quieted down – Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods are still separated by cement block walls and students still go to separate primary and secondary schools. This was actually even the case for me in my Arlington, Virginia elementary school neighborhood in the early 1960’s, where a wall separated white and black neighborhoods and schools were not integrated until my third grade class, after the implementation of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision abolished the “separate but equal” segregation practices of the past.

While language and cultural preservation is an important concern, if children are taught separately in that manner from a young age, how are we ever going to get along? Further, while some tout the value of separate classes or even schools for girls (where some studies show that they may learn better and be better prepared to take on leadership positions after graduation), others decry that position and say that separate education, even by gender, perpetuates existing societal divisions (see an excellent article from a few years ago by Wendy Kaminer in The Atlantic on this point).

We do all have to get along in a multi-cultural world, with different points of view and varied life experiences. The more we understand each others’ points of view, the better off we will all be, and that education and exposure to diversity should start in primary school. What do you think – is separate ever equal?

New Social Institutions and Gender Index Report from OECD

The OECD’s Development Centre has updated their Social Institutions and Gender Index report. The SIGI, launched in 2009, gathers and reports on the underlying social institutions that influence gender roles and relations, complementing other gender equality measures that report on outcomes such as educational attainment or labor force participation. The SIGI finds that countries which display higher levels of discrimination against women are also performing more poorly on a range of development indicators.

The 2012 report shows some areas of progress, such as:

  • The average prevalence of early marriage across countries has decreased to 17% in 2012 from 21% in 2009.
  • The number of countries with specific legislation to combat domestic violence has more than doubled from 21 in 2009 to 53 in 2012.
  • 29 countries have quotas to promote women’s political participation at both national and sub-national levels.

On the other hand, there remain some significant areas for concern:

  • 86 out of 121 countries scored in the 2012 SIGI have discriminatory inheritance laws or practices.
  • Despite the introduction of laws, attitudes that perpetuate violence against women persist. On average, for the countries scored in the SIGI, around half of women believe domestic violence is justified in certain circumstances.
  • On average, women hold only 15% of land titles for countries where data is available.

The SIGI website includes country profiles, a key findings summary, and a spreadsheet database containing detailed statistics that may be downloaded for further analysis. Find out more at genderindex.org.

Google Joins the Women’s Enterprise Development Bandwagon … Cautiously

Large corporations are starting to trip over each other in the race to assist women entrepreneurs in developing economies (not that you’ll hear us complaining – far from it)! There’s Coke’s 5 x 20 program, Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative, and Walmart’s Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative.

Now jumping into the fray, with a pilot program in India, is Google. The new Women Entrepreneurs on the Web program is designed to help women business owners take their businesses online, and if it’s successful, watch for it to expand to other countries. A helping hand, or a play for global domination of the web? You decide – and keep watch for their expansion into other countries.

What are the blogmeisters saying? Read a few posts on Forbes.com, Fusible, and from Google India itself.

Find more about the program at womenentrepreneursontheweb.com or at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which looks to be partnering on the mentoring aspects of the effort.

Women’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation

I’m just back from an event at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, where the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held a series of meetings focused on innovation policy. One item on the agenda was a discussion of women’s entrepreneurship and innovation – more specifically the sharing of the results of a two-year effort studying how women and men business owners view and implement innovation in their enterprises.

The analysis is based on a 6-country survey of women and men business owners (in Brazil, Jordan, Sweden, Switzerland, Uganda and the United States), all of who own established firms with employees and with between $10,000 and $10 million USD in sales. Womenable helped to design the survey, conducted the comparative analysis, and authored the report for UNCTAD. That report has not yet been published (this meeting produced a draft report that is now out for comment among UNCTAD stakeholders – we’ll let you know when it’s publicly available), but here are some of the most intriguing findings:

  • Personal motivation is a key driver for innovative behavior within both women-owned and men-owned firms, but women are found to be much more likely than men to innovate in order to address a social need they see in their communities or in the marketplace;
  • There are more similarities than differences between women and men business owners in the operationalization of innovation within their firms, including trademarking, intellectual property protection, and investment in research and development, and in the orientation toward risk;
  • Differences in risk tolerance are much more likely to be seen by development context than gender, with owners in the developing economies studied being much more cautious about risk;
  • Access to finance is the most important barrier to innovation in all countries and among both women and men, but cultural constraints are an additional constraint – not only to innovation but to business growth in general – for women in Jordan and Uganda.

When it’s published, you’ll see that the report contains an extensive series of recommendations for policy and programmatic action, including:

  • consideration of innovation-focused business exchange programs (regional, national or international) – as well as greater gender diversity in the composition of trade fairs and trade missions;
  • establishment of targeted training and technical assistance to encourage innovation in social enterprises; and
  • the creation of mentoring and role model efforts aimed at increasing innovation among women business owners.

The report also contains an extensive bibliography of related research and links to organizations and web sites related to women’s entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as summaries of each of the six country-specific reports.

To download and review the PowerPoint presentation I gave at the UNCTAD meeting, CLICK HERE. For more information about the full event agenda, CLICK HERE. And here’s a link to another interesting UNCTAD report, Applying a Gender Lens to Science, Technology and Innovation.

The New Chain Gang: Women as Suppliers

Time was, corporations parked their womenabling efforts in their corporate social responsibility silos. Now, corporations are far more likely to view women-owned firms as important customers and suppliers than a population in need of charity.

We can date US corporate interest in women business owners as a market back to 1995, when the Center for Women’s Business Research’s seminal report, “Breaking the Boundaries,” was published. That report, based on an analysis of the entire Dun & Bradstreet database, showed that women-owned firms were just as financially stable and creditworthy as the average US firm. The report’s release resulted in a virtual stampede toward women-owned firms by US banks.

Now, a number of global corporations are taking a market development approach to supporting women’s entrepreneurship – readying them to be more valuable links in their supply chains.

The most recent entry is Walmart, the biggest corporation on the planet, which recently announced a four-pronged Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative. One important prong: $100 million USD in grants to women’s enterprise development efforts worldwide.

They join several other corporate giants in firmly planting a flag in the field of women as agents of economic change, rather than recipients of charity. Here are just a few:

  • Coke’s initiative, 5 by 20, aims to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by the year 2020, by adding them to their retail vendor sales force. They plan to announce other elements of the program soon, as well as the paths by which they will achieve their goal. Let’s hope it includes women’s business association capacity-building!
  • Not to be outdone, Coke’s rival Pepsi has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with USAID and the UN’s World Food Programme to invest in chickpea production in Ethiopia. The project, called Enterprise EthioPEA, aims to double chickpea production in the country and improve childhood nutrition. The majority of the country’s – and the world’s – farmers are women.
  • Clothing company Gap, Inc. was recently recognized for their innovative PACE program (which stands for Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement), which has worked since 2007 in 6 Asian countries to improve the education and business skills of its garment workers.
  • Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative, a 5-year effort launched in 2008, has the aim of increasing the number of business school-educated women in developing economies, pairing them up with corporate mentors in developed economies and partnering with universities and other non-governmental organizations. To date it is active in 22 countries, and is partnering with 75 groups to reach their goal.

These efforts all bode well for WEConnect International, a relatively new NGO that has formed to make the link between women business owners who wish to do business with large corporations and the corporations that are seeking out ways to engage women’s business enterprises in their value chains. WEConnect’s model is based upon that of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) in the US. check out this brief video featuring WEConnect President Elizabeth Vazquez talking about the impact of including more women-owned firms in global corporate value chains:

So here’s to women as contributors of economic value! Are there any other big corporate “women in the value chain” efforts that you know of? Let us know!