When Women Are Economically Empowered, Societies Prosper And Peace Prevails
When women are economically empowered, they re-invest in their families and communities, producing a multiplier effect that spurs economic growth and contributes to global peace and stability. In February 2019, President Trump established the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, also led and created by Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump. This initiative is the first whole-of-government effort to advance global women’s economic empowerment.
W-GDP seeks to reach 50 million women in the developing world by 2025 through U.S. government activities, private-public partnerships, and a new, innovative W-GDP Fund. In its first year, W-GDP reached 12 million women worldwide.
The W-GDP Initiative aims to enhance opportunities for women to participate meaningfully in the economy and advance both prosperity and national security. W-GDP focuses on three pillars: Women Prospering in the Workforce, Women Succeeding as Entrepreneurs, and Women Enabled in the Economy.
Increase women’s global labor force participation and advancement in the workplace by providing women with quality education, training, and support, so they can secure and thrive in well-paying jobs in their local economies.
Workforce Development, Vocational Education, and Skills Training
A healthy global economy is critical to America’s economic and national security, and depends upon the economic contributions of both women and men. Around the world, women’s labor force participation rates are unequal to men’s, decent work opportunities are far too limited, and significant gender pay gaps in the labor market remain. Growing evidence reveals that women’s low participation in the formal labor markets of developing countries impedes economic growth and poverty reduction.
Many women face multiple barriers when trying to enter, remain, or advance in the workforce. The problem starts early, as societal norms and expectations often keep girls and women from pursuing education and skills training. Globally, women are more likely than men to shoulder the time burden of unpaid activities, such as cleaning the home, caring for children and elders, and collecting clean water. These practices often prevent them from obtaining education, training, and skills needed to enter into higher-wage, high-growth occupations, such as science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM”) where men are disproportionately employed. For instance, women make up nearly half of the agricultural labor force in many African countries, but without equal access to adequate training and certifications, women are often working in the lowest-paid roles and tending low-value crops. With a more level playing field, female farmers could increase their yields, feeding their families and more people around the globe.
Women also face less access to digital services, which can be a platform for training, employment, and financial services, facilitating women’s economic empowerment. More than 1.7 billion women in low and middle-income countries still do not own a mobile phone, and they are 26% less likely to use mobile internet than men. These factors reinforce women’s economic inequality. Women’s economic empowerment and equality exist in the workforce when women receive the same market-relevant education and vocational opportunities as men and boys, and, once in the workforce, have the ability to organize work for enhanced productivity and compete on equal terms for job openings, advancement, and retention with equal pay for work.
Increase the access of women entrepreneurs and business owners to financing, market opportunities, and training to establish and grow their businesses.
Access to Capital, Markets, Networks, and Mentorship
Women entrepreneurs are a growing market force, serving as a critical source of innovation and job creation and fueling economic growth. However, women-owned businesses do not have equal access to the capital needed to stabilize or expand. There is a roughly $300 billion credit gap for women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”) globally. In many countries, immature or underdeveloped financial systems do not adequately serve the “missing middle,” such as women-owned SMEs that have financial needs beyond micro-finance and whose assets do not qualify them for larger commercial loans. Solving this problem requires not only long-term, systemic reforms, but also short-term financial mechanisms that can address immediate needs. Few financial intermediaries are able to address these short-term needs without some form of external assistance.
Investing in women is vital for our collective economic prosperity and global stability. When we empower women, communities prosper and countries thrive.Ivanka Trump
Women entrepreneurs in the developing world also lack access to markets, market information, digital and personal services, networks, mentorship, and other resources that enable them to overcome the obstacles of starting and growing firms as well as connecting with buyers. As with finance, some of these barriers are systemic, and others are more individualized. Systemic barriers require institutional reforms.
Individualized solutions require development of public and private sector partnerships that can provide the training or assistance needed, including, in some cases, to help organize and formalize individual women entrepreneurs into cooperatives to achieve economies of scale.
Women’s economic empowerment and equality exist when women entrepreneurs enjoy equal access to the same affordable financing mechanisms that men do, including both credit and equity, as well as equal access to markets, market information, digital technology, and services.
Promote an enabling environment that increases women’s economic empowerment by reducing barriers and enhancing protections in policies, laws, regulations and practices (public and private) to facilitate women’s participation in the economy.
Remove Restrictive Legal, Regulatory, and Cultural Barriers
The environment for economic activity in any country often includes numerous barriers that disadvantage women as they pursue employment, business, and investment opportunities. Broadly defined, the enabling environment for women in the economy encompasses the legal and regulatory framework, policies and practices (public and private sector), and social norms that support women to operate in the formal economy, or improve basic conditions for women working in the informal economy. Conversely, each of these factors, if not addressed, can stunt women’s economic empowerment.
Women are frequently discouraged and often effectively barred from economic engagement by disproportionate burdens of unpaid care, gender-based violence, underinvestment in their education, need for spousal approval for employment, and legal barriers to participation in certain professions. Some of the economic barriers women face arise from foundational limitations, such as laws that limit women’s rights to inherit, own property, or enter contracts in their own name. Reducing those barriers while ensuring women have the legal and policy protections they need requires deliberate efforts by government, private sector, and civil society.
- Accessing Institutions: Reduce restrictions on women’s authority to sign legal documents such as contracts and court documents. Address unequal access to courts and administrative bodies for women, whether officially or though lack of proper enforcement.
- Building Credit: Ensure women’s equal access to credit and capital to start and grow their businesses. Prohibit discrimination in accessing credit by sex or marital status.
- Owning and Managing Property: Lift restrictions for women on owning and managing property, including limitations on inheritance and the ability to transfer, purchase, or lease property.
- Traveling Freely: Address constraints on women’s freedom of movement, including restrictions on obtaining passports.
- Removing Restrictions on Employment: Remove restrictions that limit women’s working hours, occupations, or tasks.
The benefits of women in the economy are substantial. Countries with greater balance of men and women in the workplace and workforce have greater growth, innovation, and stability. The same goes for firms: those with a stronger ratio of women in leadership, management, and the workforce outperform those with fewer women. While only five percent of the CEOs in Africa are women, the positive impact of female leadership is clear: businesses in Africa with the most women on their boards have an operating profit over 20 percent higher than industry averages. Improvements in the enabling environment increase economic opportunities for all women in that economy, which in turn benefits their families, communities, firms, and nations as a whole through broad-based economic growth and development.
The larger the opportunity gap between men and women, the more likely a country is to be involved in violent conflict. Conversely, nations in which women have equal opportunities are more likely to thrive and solve challenges peacefully.
Women’s economic empowerment and equality exists when the enabling environment reduces the barriers women face to participating in the economy, whether those are legal, regulatory or cultural.