Measuring the BEE for WOBs in LAC

Taking on those who might attribute gender gaps in business performance to differences in entrepreneurial drive, commitment or motivation, there is a growing body of analysis focused on how the business-enabling environment (BEE) affects the development of women-owned businesses (WOBs). We womenablers are well aware that a woman entrepreneur can be as committed and motivated as all get-out, but her enterprise will not grow as strongly as one owned by her male peers if (for example) she cannot own property in her own name – thereby depriving her of the collateral needed to fuel the growth of her business via access to capital.
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Property ownership and capital access are among the 49 input variables in five key categories (security & stability, business climate, finance, capacity and social services) that are codified and analyzed in a new regional assessment of women’s entrepreneurship in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The WEVentureScope, from the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), was announced in a launch event last week. Featuring speakers from the MIF, the Economist Intelligence Unit, which conducted the analysis (and which brought us the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index), and a panel of experts, the event announced the availability of a summary report as well as a marvelously interactive web site (www.weventurescope.com) which allows users to change the weighting of different factors and see how it affects a country’s overall score.

At present, the WEVentureScope analyzes and ranks 20 countries in the region – ensuring coverage across the region but focusing on countries with a higher level of data availability. In this inaugural effort, these five countries lead the list:

  • Chile (scoring 64.8 out of a possible 100):
  • Peru (62.4);
  • Columbia (61.8);
  • Mexico (60.2): and
  • Uruguay (60.0).

During the announcement event (which you can watch at your leisure by clicking on the link to the archived event below – the event starts at 1:45:00 and runs just under 2 hours), the point was made that, even among these top-ranked countries, there is much room for improvement, given that the top score is just two-thirds of the way to a perfect score of 100. Speakers also mentioned the challenge of comparative data, and the hope that a report such as this will spur more governments to start keeping the sort of sex-disaggregated data and statistics that could add new countries to this effort in future years.

Women’s Entrepreneurial VentureScope Launch Event

Visit the web site to learn more, read the news release, download the report, and play with the weighting of different environmental factors.

This effort is an important step forward in understanding the barriers to entry and growth of women-owned firms in the region, and to informing policy and programmatic action to support their improved success. ¡Viva las mujeres empresarias!

Empowering Women Through Internet Access

A new report recently released by Intel adds to the body of research focusing on gaps in technology availability and usage by gender, adding to the evidence base that access to information technology increases empowerment, education, and economic well-being.
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The report, Women and the Web, combines interviews with 2,200 women in four countries (Egypt, India, Mexico, and Uganda) with data from a variety of other sources and shares the following observations:

  • Gender barriers to technology are real. On average across the developing world, nearly 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the Internet.
  • Bridging the Internet gender gap can boost women’s income and income potential. Across the surveyed countries, nearly half of respondents used the Web to search for and apply for a job, and 30 percent had used the Internet to earn additional income.
  • Use of the Internet also increases women’s sense of empowerment. More than 70% of women surveyed who are online say that it is “liberating” and 85% say it “provides more freedom.”

The 104-page report concludes with a series of recommendations for action to bridge the gender technology divide. Read a news release highlighting other findings HERE, and download and read the full report HERE.

Other earlier reports on this topic may also be of interest:

Finally, womenablers may also be interested in the Research Links page of the Anita Borg Institute, which focuses mainly on research on women in technology, but is nonetheless a great resource to bookmark for future reference.

The UK’s Power Women

The Womenabler has long been a fan of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour – we download and listen to many a show on our long womenabling flights around the globe. Last year, Woman’s Hour followed the trials and tribulations of three women entrepreneurs, pairing them up with mentors and discussing their entrepreneurial growth pains at regular intervals during the year. It was fascinating, illuminating and – we would guess – very inspirational for listeners thinking of starting and growing their own businesses.

womenshourlistpicThis year, they’ve set a new high bar – announcing a Power List of the 100 most powerful women in the UK. The build-up to the announcement was interesting to listen to, as they highlighted the advancement – or lack thereof – of women in business, politics, education, science and sport. It was a thoughtful, open process and the list is an interesting mix of the elite and the street-smart. Of course, #1 on the list is Queen Elizabeth, and many of the others in the ranked top-twenty lists are Dames and Right Honorables (position defines clout, in the UK and elsewhere). However, the list also includes such built-it-not-born-into-it women as singer Adele, noted architect Zaha Hadid, author JK Rowling, and a variety of women in sport, business, politics and civil society.

It’s a wonderful mix of women from a variety of walks of life, and generations, but some have commented that it’s not a very ethnically diverse list and that there were political and face-saving motivations for embarking upon this quest. But then, the halls of power are still relatively homogenous. By our eye, this women’s power list is much more diverse on so many levels than a gender-blind power list would be. And, whatever the motivations may have been, it’s a wonderful window on the world of women’s influence in the United Kingdom, a good conversation-starter about who may be missing from the list, and a feather in the cap of a fine radio program that, in our view, deserves more than a moment in the spotlight.

Check out the Woman’s Hour Power List, the stories behind how the list was chosen, and some of the commentary following the announcement of the list – including the chagrin of some that the Duchess of Cambridge was not included in the list.

Well done, Woman’s Hour!

Womenable Testifies at U.S. Senate Hearing

Womenable President and CEO Julie R. Weeks testified at a recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, entitled “Creating Jobs and Growing the Economy: Legislative Proposals to Strengthen the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.” Weeks was one of eight witnesses invited to address the committee. Other witnesses included officials from the U.S. Small Business Administration, a representative from the National Federation of Independent Business chapter in Maine, an official from the Granite State Economic Development Corporation, and business owners. Weeks spoke as an expert in women’s enterprise development, and as chair of the Association of Women’s Business Centers.JulieWeekstestimony_sm

The hearing, held on November 29th, focused on actions that the Committee could take now and early in the next Congress to spur small business growth and job creation. Weeks’ testimony, which can be downloaded and read in its entirety HERE (PDF file with active source links) or HERE (HTML on the SBC website), offered three specific policy recommendations:

  • Federal Procurement and WOSBs: Eliminate the monetary cap which is currently limiting the procurement opportunities that can be directed toward women-owned small businesses, and enable agency procurement officials to restrict competition for WOSBs;
  • Women’s Business Centers: Ensure that the SBA, when measuring and analyzing the performance of the WBC program, includes all of the support provided by WBCs, not just one-on-one counseling; and
  • The Census Bureau’s SBO Program: Ensure the continued funding of the quinquennial Survey of Business Owners program, and direct the Census Bureau to investigate growth continuum issues such as the emergence of “women-led” firms, and the feasibility of determining the gender ownership status of non-profit businesses.

The hearing was also significant in that it was the last Senate Small Business Committee hearing to be co-lead by retiring Senator Olympia Snowe – who has been a champion not only of small business development in general but of women’s enterprise development in particular during her storied 35-year Congressional career. Weeks concluded her testimony with a tribute to Snowe, saying,Weeks_Snowe_sm

“Finally, if I might be so presumptuous to speak on behalf of the entire women’s enterprise development community, I would like to recognize that, ever since she came to the U.S. Congress in 1978, Senator Olympia Snowe has been a vocal supporter and forceful advocate for women’s entrepreneurship issues without equal in the U.S. Congress. Her support and thought leadership on behalf of the women’s business center program, on federal procurement issues, on SBA entrepreneurial development coordination and impact evaluation, on the National Women’s Business Council; her inclusiveness in calling advocates to the table to discuss challenges and solutions; and the collegial way she has led the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship as both Chair and Ranking Member is unparalleled and is a shining example of the best in national politics and policymaking. Her voice and leadership will be sorely missed by all of us.”

All in attendance gave Senator Snowe a standing ovation near the start of the hearing.

A press release issued by the Committee can be read HERE, and video from the 2+ hour hearing can be viewed on the Senate SBC video archive or on C-SPAN.org. (Weeks was the last of the panelists to testify.)

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!

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.