2015 is a milestone for both TIAW and women. This year, TIAW celebrates its 35th anniversary as well as the theme ‘Beyond Sustainability: Women’s Economic Empowerment’. Reflecting TIAW’s leadership in this area, for the first time, the G7, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya and the United Nations Women Report on the Progress of the Women’s World have all recognized the importance of economic empowerment for women. Building on these ground breaking documents as well as the TIAW 2014 Call to Action.
The Business Case for Gender Equality via Naderah Chamlou- Former Senior Advisor to the Chief Economist MENA Region at The World Bank- TIAW Global Forum panellist, WODA winner 2015
Chamlou remarked that in all countries, advanced and emerging, the progress toward gender equality is relatively young. Even as recent as 30-40 years ago there were little legal or social differences among countries regarding the role of women in life and society. The differences were anchored in traditions, customs, and history. The movement for women’s rights has been, and remains, uphill in every society.
However, three developments have taken placed in the last 10-15 years, which has given the issue of gender equality a new urgency.
The first development centers around the making the business case for gender equality. This meant that the discourse about women’s empowerment and advancement would not only focus on women’s equal rights as a goal in itself, or as wanting to be fair to women, but as being an important factor for the companies’ bottom line. Studies like the Catalyst study of the performance of Fortune 500 companies that found they performed better if they had diversified boards, than homogenous white male ones, were ground breaking. Even though, the studies could not establish causality between women on boards and profitability, the replication of the studies in country after country with similar results, did open eyes and make a difference. They sowed the idea that companies that diversity is good for business and not a drain.
The second development was the gradual engagement of mainstream economists in the discourse, who had been largely absent from previous debates that were mainly advanced by other disciplines, such as sociologist, anthropologists, lawyers, etc. Few economists, other than feminist economists, took gender inequality seriously and relevant to their work, even though economic literature is rich with evidence that inequality hold back growth and progress. The growing voice of the economists gave a additional voice to a choir of other disciplines. Integrating gender into economic policies, budgeting, and linking them to growth (or, estimating how much growth would be lost due to gender inequality) attracted new converts and provided new tools to address the challenge. Today, even the IMF has joined the effort by covering gender under its Article IV Consultations, and Mme Christine Lagarde wastes no time in here speeches to highlight this point.
Third, and most sustainably, it is now the private sector that is pushing the agenda forward whereas in the past the domain was left largely to governments and NGOs. This transformation is largely due to the phenomenal increase in women in universities across the world, and declining workforce due to lower fertility. Businesses have realized that in order to compete, they can no longer sideline this considerable talent pool. They must find ways to keep women attached to the labor market and change internal working environments to attract the best workers. When earlier technology could dictate a company’s comparative advantage, today a business’s most important assets walk through its doors in the morning and out at night. As such, this dynamics has resulted in the birth of many more networks whose goal is to change the business world.
Hence, the three developments of demonstrating the business case for gender equality, acknowledging that gender inequality slows down economic growth, and the private for-profit sector becoming an agent for demand-driven change are important turning points in the discourse. They will determine the pace and direction of change in the future.
There have been recently some highly talked about literature, which on one hand urges women to lean in, and on the other hand highlights the reality that they cannot have it all. As mothers, women have no choice but to lean in and take an active part in shaping the world in which they would like their children and families to live. These choices and trade-offs are critical for the society, and women must be increasingly in the table. We can easily see that in countries where women have a more active role in the public role, there is a greater moderation, adaptability, and inclusion. And conversely, where they are absent there is more extremism and conflict. In many ways, the position of women in society is a good barometer of the level of development of a society. And, if we do not understand such gender relations (and this goes beyond the male/female) we really do not understand the societies in which we work.
Now this brings me to a few observations about the region on which I have worked quite extensively, the Middle East and North Africa.
As mentioned earlier, there has been progress in estimating the contribution of gender equality to economic growth, or the loss thereof when there is a gap. All countries without exception have still a headroom to grow by improving women’s economic participation. The OECD block, for instance, could grow by 15.4% in the long run, according to Cuberes and Teignier (2015). Not surprisingly, the Middle East and North Africa demonstrate the highest loss due to the widest gender gap in economic participation. The region’s income loss in the long run is 38 percent. To put this in perspective, this loss is as large as the size of the economy of Mexico, which is the world’s 15th largest economy. The economies of some countries like Saudi Arabia could be larger in the long run 45 percent higher, Iran’s around 41.5 percent, and Egypt’s around 39 percent. If a slice of such economic gains could be gotten by bridging any gap, say providing better rural cellphone coverage, or improvements in infrastructure, or expanding the market for a particular consumer good, the private sector would explore and realize opportunities. In this case, too, the private sector could benefit from bridging the gender gap, and could lead the change.
In the case of Iran, the opportunities are immense. In the wake of the nuclear agreement, there have been plane loads of trade missions from various countries going to Iran. But, they are rather male dominated from the sending countries. In other words, the women from these countries are largely excluded by their own countries and may not be given the opportunity to benefit from the Iranian market. And, when in Iran, these missions hardly ever request to meet with Iranian women entrepreneurs. Iran has a very prominent and vibrant women’s entrepreneurship across all sectors and scales. The gender exclusive nature of foreign trade missions is inadvertently widening the gender divide inside Iran. As is the case with their male peers, women in the West and women in Iran can benefit from mutual B2B relations. This is an area that could and should be explored in the coming year.
Naderah Chamlou ,TIAW Super Panel Speaker,2015 World of Difference Award Winner
Diane Tompson- Insightful Bites
Panel Chair: Diane Tompson – TIAW Program Director of Entrepreneurship. Co-owner of three companies working under the banner of the parent company, The Powercom Group, based in Tasmania. She is a founding director and co-owner of Novaris Technologies Malaysia. Novaris is a leading edge electronic manufacturer producing lightning and surge protection products.
Experts say that women will contribute to 18 trillion dollars consumer spending to the world GDP by 2018. So we should ask the question, how do we drive beyond sustainability? The following are some suggestions for how this might occur, top of the list is the empowerment of women and how we might achieve this.
Selima Ahmad (Bangladesh)
- Educate all women and girls, set our goals to achieve this.
- We must have a mission statement for women around the world.
- Learn about conflict management. There should be no more violence towards women,
- Ensure that no woman die of hunger or childbearing and
- Ensure that there is no more acid thrown at women for having the courage to say no to forced marriages.
- equal property rights
We must as a priority educate women and empower women.
Give them access to markets and access to finance.
TIAW is celebrating 35 years to progress women. Some of the objects of the association are to acknowledge that women’s security is important.
That we need to promote the importance of women politically, socially, economically and technically.
We need to talk more about girls because they are our future and they can bring sustainability.
Samite (Sam) Bulte (Canada)
Sam is a parliamentarian from Canada
She is one of the founder of the women entrepreneurs of Canada
Sam believes that governments have worked out that the empowerment of women is the only way to improve the economy. Benefiting the economy gets the government interested.
She stated that gender is the way we are programmed. That homelessness in men is usually drug and alcohol related. Women however are homeless because they are beaten and have nowhere to go.
We are able to empower women globally through politics.
In Canada, 88 women were elected this week to parliament. (88 were elected out of a possible 300 seats)
The government has made a commitment to extend maternity benefits to the unemployed.
To improve the status of women we should locate the champions, male and female and in addition not forget the importance of bureaucracy.
Goals have been committed by all the countries of the world to reduce poverty. (Refer to the SDG5 on the UN website) all political parties should be more transparent.
Gladys England (Sierra Leone)
The oasis café was established in 2011. It began life as a snack bar but has developed into a restaurant with a unique menu. 80% of her suppliers are women. She supports students and if possible offers them their first job. Operating as a women in business in Sierra Leone is hard, they work tirelessly and find it impossible to grow their businesses. These businesses tend to be micro business and the economic driver for these women is that if they don’t sell their wares, they may not eat that night. We need to change the mindsets of the country. We need to send the message to all that entrepreneurship is a respectable occupation and an honourable career. Instead, everybody wants white colour jobs.
Business was considered a lesser job and people who went into business were considered as having nothing else to do, so had to go into business as an entrepreneur. As a result, businesses slowly slipped into foreign hands.
Emphasis was placed on education during foreign rule. Unfortunately the legacy has not been passed on to the children.
Transitions of policies need to be transformed into practical implementation and she would like to see action
There is a talent in all of us, it just needs tapping.
Virginia Littlejohn (US)
Having the parliamentarians onside is critical.
There are important linkages with the US and Canada. Change of governments were a problem, the politicians you had a relationship with change rapidly so you have start again to build relationships. NGO’s have always been careful to be bi-partisan. If you want to have a dialogue with politicians, you have to have data and statistics, governments won’t listen otherwise.
Having male champions is also critical. WeConnect (weconnectinternational.org) created collaborations between business owners and government. Business and the economic case is critical to this relationship’s success. Ensure that you translate the message into languages that high level men can understand.
(Unconscious bias.) This is was evident when female musicians only become selected for key positions when they introduced playing behind a screen for auditions.
Andrina Lever (Italy, formerly of Canada)
Mobile technology will aid women
Encouraging financial institutions to join “The women in finance” organisation which has the backing of the Bank of Canada.
Promote literacy and business management.
Ownership rights are important to guarantee ownership and the right to enter into contracts.
W20 will play a major role in the call to action for governments.
Elect more women, act constructively and positively.
We need three positive outcomes with a follow up statement
Create a TIAW pledge ensure that it is marketed in our countries
Promote an all-women’s trade mission
TIAW panel “I did it my way”
Facilitator Diane Tompson (Australia)
Many of the panels have spoken about the importance of empowering female entrepreneurs. Research has shown that if you help a woman, you also help their families. Women are attuned to the needs of their children and want education for them to improve their lot in life and to put food on their tables.
As a female entrepreneur, I can attest to the fact that we all have “skin in the game”, the pressure is on! How we behave affects not only the viability of our companies but also the culture and attitude of our staff and those around us.
In fact our decisions about the way we do business, often mean life or death to the company and possibly to our staff as well! BUT having said that, the absolute benefit of being an entrepreneur, apart from being master of our own destiny, is being able to speak honestly and openly in discussions. We do this whilst hopefully retaining the respect of both our male and female colleagues. Sometimes it feels like we are walking a tight rope!
Awards like the WOD TIAW awards and IWEC are vital to the successful promotion of women, particularly for entrepreneurs because it gives us credibility, pride and recognition that we would not otherwise be given. More importantly, it gives us a voice with the key decision makers.
I have always maintained that nothing will improve in the lot of women in business until WOMEN become some of those key decision makers. This is true in all spheres of life whether it’s in the family, in business or in parliament. It is up to women like us to promote women to key decision making roles.
I believe that we can do it through a multitude of ways, through government support or through NGO’s like TIAW or we can do it collaboratively with both government and NGO’s. I prefer the second model having recently been involved in a coaching and training initiative in collaboration with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the Indian Ocean. It is far more effective and powerful to get government to talk to government, not to mention government entities putting money into the project to get potential recipients of the initiative together. In this project they will do this in four countries and if successful, they want to roll it out over the whole IORA region. It has the power to affect many lives, not a handful.
This idea of a collaborative project came from an IORA meeting held last year, followed by a discussion between the regional commissioner of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean at an FCEM congress and then we the commissioners, decided how we would approach the project to improve and empower the women of the region. Magically the idea became a reality, so the moral of the story is that you just have to start the conversation, that’s all it takes. An idea takes shape and then you have to take control of the initiative and start the conversation.
Our panel today includes both female and male entrepreneurs who have either promoted or helped women entrepreneurs or are themselves entrepreneurs. The following women and man come from all corners of the globe and several themes and topics are similar throughout their presentations.
This is their story.
Julie Weeks (US)
Julie Weeks is the President and CEO of Womenable, a for-profit social enterprise that works to enable women’s entrepreneurship worldwide by improving the systems – laws, policies, programs and research-based knowledge – that support women’s enterprise creation and growth. Weeks is one of the world’s leading experts in the field of women’s enterprise development, with experience in both the private and public sectors in the areas of research, public policy and program management.
Julie’s background is in finding the statistics in order to talk to governments and organisation regarding the importance of promoting women entrepreneurs. She is an entrepreneur herself and understands the challenges and barriers to business.
She opened her presentation by saying that there are only 18 countries that have legal restrictions to protect women.
All governments should provide enabling environments for female entrepreneurs.
The top score for countries which enable environments conducive to female entrepreneurs is the US which has 71 points out of a possible 100. Interestingly Australia is third.
Julie made the comment there is still a lot to be done and thought we needed a 20 million dollar boost to funds to provide economic empowerment for women.
David Chavern (US)
David Chavern is the President and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA)
David is former executive vice president and chief operating officer at the United States Chamber of Commerce. He was president of the Centre for Advanced Technology & Innovation, which was focused on the public policy challenges faced by the tech sector. He was also founder and president of the Chamber’s Centre for Women in Business, which was established to increase opportunities for women at all levels of business.
Before joining the Chamber in 2005, David held several senior positions at the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank in Washington. Prior to that, David was in private legal practice in Philadelphia. He is a member of the board of directors of Transamerica Life Insurance Company. He also sits on the board of advisors of Humin, a San Francisco-based tech start up firm that uses mobile technology to enrich human connections.
David has worked with both male and female entrepreneurs in his former role working with the American Chamber of Commerce.
David stated that technology should be our friend because it provides mobility. He added that technology also allows us the flexibility and control of our business and enables us to operate the way that we want to. In addition, it provides a peer network that can be utilized as a marketing platform and mentoring opportunity.
Elena Fedyashina (Russia)
Elena is one of Russia’s leading forces for the business advancement of women. She is the Executive Director of the Committee of 20, an association of Russia’s most successful businesswomen who work to enhance women’s business success and underscore the power of women to drive economic development. She co-founded “Leadership without Boundaries” community bringing together senior corporate women to get more women onto Boards and into C-suites.
Elena has initiated and implemented numerous highly successful projects including mentorship programs for women entrepreneurs from the regions of Russia and cross-industry program for corporate “high-potentials”; women’s business exchange as well as numerous educational programs. She has conducted several surveys on women economic participation to raise awareness of gender equality issues.
Elena informed us that in Russia, women own and manage 35-40% of all SME’s. Her work is to support these women to enable them to succeed in growing their enterprises.
She told us that the unpredictability of the economy makes it very difficult to plan or predict business outcomes.
On the whole she thought that women were more optimistic than men.
Michele Piercy (Australia and the US)
Michèle is a stabilization and governance development practitioner with 17 years of professional experience, including more than 10 years working on political transition and counter-violent extremism (CVE) programs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Tunisia. After corporate change management and training appointments with the Australian Department of Defense early in her career, she worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on small-scale community engagement projects across Iraq from 2005 to 2008. Upon joining DAI, she partnered with Provincial Reconstruction Teams and Iraqi civil society on local development and voter education projects to support the democratic process, reinforce legitimate local governments, and counteract the influence of extremists throughout south and west Baghdad in 2008 and 2009. From 2009 to 2012 she served as Deputy Chief of Party on DAI/USAID – Office of Transition Initiatives Afghanistan Stabilization Initiative, during which she developed and piloted the District Stability Framework, a counterinsurgency planning tool that was later mandated for use by military engaged in stabilization operations throughout Afghanistan.
Her current focus is on fostering women and youth leadership initiatives to foster community cohesion and resist extremist influences.
Michele informed us that one third of the world was at any one time affected by some sort of conflict. This is not necessary war torn conflict but nevertheless whatever the cause, makes life very difficult for women. She has been involved in encouraging women to start their own industries in countries that are not necessarily traditionally known for women owned ventures, but provides a way for them to nurture their families and educate their children.
The NGO that she has joined works with the local community and governments to provide a means to help and empower these women.
Tanya Hine (UK)
On completion of her education she joined the Royal Air Force. After many years serving in various companies as an Accountant and Financial Director, she set up her own Corporate Graphic Design business in 1994.,having made various business and trade mission visits throughout Europe. Many of these were in her capacity as President of Central Scotland Chamber of Commerce. .Awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List 2010 for ‘Services to Business’,
She is also an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Becoming a member of The British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAWE) in 1995, elected British National President in 2004- 2010. Elected to serve on the Parent Association
FCEM as World Vice President and served until May 2011.
Elected in 2009 to serve on the Advisory Group of the ‘Women’s National Commission’, Europe and the Commonwealth. In 2011 became one of 50 UK Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors, who’s aim is to spread the word amongst female pupils and students .She became a European Mentor in June 2012. Served as Corporate Secretary of TIAW .October 2012 – February 2014. Elected to the Scottish Board of the RSA in October 2010 and Elected to the Fellowship Council of the RSA Sept 2014. Elected to the Board of Young Enterprise Scotland, Forth Valley, May 2013. Together with EUWIIN undertook a European project on Gender Balance in economic development this year
Tanya spoke of the necessity and indeed the importance of innovation to provide sustainability and future growth. (In my summing up, I informed the audience that as a Managing Director of an electronic manufacturing company the only way to protect our IP against countries like China was to continually innovate to keep one step ahead. It is a sad truth that not all countries respect IP)
She also highlighted the importance of helping others and in particular encouraging other female entrepreneurs and helping them to succeed.
Nancy Ploeger (US)
Nancy Ploeger is the President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and celebrated her 21st year in this role in Jan. 2015. Nancy’s goals/objectives are to ensure that MCC continues to be the voice for Manhattan’s small businesses, launching a variety of economic development programs and networks as well as strong relationships with government officials at all levels. She has increased the membership to 10,000 members and subscribers. She also oversees the MCC Foundation and MCC Community Benefit Fund.
Nancy is one of the Founding members of the International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC). This program has lead the Chamber to become a catalyst that has created and strengthened a global SME network of women business owners from across the globe including India, Spain, Peru, Sweden, US, many African nations and Central Asian countries as well.
Nancy also serves on a number of boards and advisory groups and is heavily engaged with the 5 Boro Chamber Coalition in NYC which fights for pro-business legislation.
Prior to joining MCC, Nancy was the VP for TSI where she spent 12 years building one of NYC’s/east coast premiere health and fitness corporations. Prior to TSI, Nancy worked for 7 years with Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s).
Nancy resides in New York City. She is a native of St. Louis, MO and a graduate of Monmouth University in New Jersey.
Nancy made us see that education is the key and that having access to the internet in all countries is of paramount importance.
IWEC, the international Entrepreneur Challenge was established by chambers around the world from Europe, Chile, Sweden, India etc to recognise women who ran large organisations and who were extremely successful at what they do. It gives both the women and their organisation credibility and an acknowledgement of their outstanding success.
In summing up, I made some comparisons of the various presentations stating that women had some common denominators which they needed acquire to be successful in business.
- Be disruptors
- Have passion for their business
- Educate themselves by any means necessary whether it be through access to the internet or by mentors.
- Help each other because by promoting another woman to succeed, we help all womankind.
At the end of the session and following audience participation, I put to all of the speakers the following question.
What keeps you awake at night?
This question is the key to an individual’s personal challenge. Not everyone’s worries are the same but every answer is relevant and worthy of consideration. One of Julie’s concerns was that there wasn’t going to be enough data for her and for me, it’s all about cash flow and keeping everyone employed.
The following is a short precis of their answers of what keeps them awake at night:
What questions are we not answering?
There is too much uncertainty around economic growth.
That there is an aggravated or should we say elevated sense of responsibility towards to women of Russia. That many people are relying on Elena for their welfare and this poses a huge amount of pressure.
War is a fact of life
There is currently a serious culture of impunity and the rise and rise of extremism. This is very dangerous for the rights and welfare of women. She felt that it may cause such a severe reversal of culture that it will put our civilization back in the Stone Age.
Worries about where will the next job come from? This concern always has to be ongoing for entrepreneurs.
Nancy worries about finances and continually having to raise funds to support entrepreneurs. She hopes that we can continue to be disruptive.
For the reader of the panel’s stories, you too will have concerns whether they be in your work or private lives. Sometimes as women we put our worries aside preferring not to face reality and basically put our heads in the sand. We know that as women, we worry far more about other people and their welfare and we give little consideration to our own problems so perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves the question.
So, what does keep you awake at night?