Women’s economic equality: The time is now

By Melanne Verveer, Co-Founder, Seneca Women and Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security

When Kim Azzarelli and I wrote Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose, we made the case that empowering women is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing—a way to lift economies around the globe. As McKinsey tells us: If women participated in the economy at the same rate as men, annual global GDP could increase by 26 percent—or $28 trillion. That’s about the size of the Chinese and US economies combined. Today, it’s heartening to see that more and more companies are recognizing the benefits that accrue to everyone when women have economic equality.

This is a propitious time to be talking about women’s tremendous economic potential. 2020 will bring several anniversaries, including the centennial of US women’s suffrage (Britain had its suffrage centennial in 2018) as well as the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which will be celebrated in Paris in July with Beijing +25.

Along with improvements in women’s rights and girls’ education, the 25 years since Beijing have seen an explosion in one of the great economic growth engines of our era: women’s entrepreneurship. From 2014 to 2019, in the US alone, women-owned businesses increased by 21% (totaling 13 million businesses) with an annual growth rate “more than double that of all businesses.” Worldwide, during a single year, 163 million women started businesses in 74 economies, and, over a two-year period, women’s entrepreneurial activity increased by 10 percent.

Forward-looking companies like Bank of America, which understand the potential of women entrepreneurs to spur economic growth, create jobs and advance inclusive prosperity, are increasingly supporting women entrepreneurs. With leadership from Vice Chairman Anne Finucane, a true champion for women, the Bank has launched many initiatives to advance women’s economic participation, including the Bank of America Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell, a free, online business education program that allows women to earn a certificate in business from a top Ivy League university.

The time for women’s economic equality is now—in the workforce, in the C-suite, and in the entrepreneurial realm. As Christine Lagarde, former head of the IMF and new president of the European Central Bank says: “Empowering women remains…a global imperative for all those who care about fairness and diversity, but also productivity and growth of societies and economies...If we can achieve this, we all gain.”

And if you want to learn more about how women are powering the world and its economies, listen to our weekly podcast, Seneca Women Conversations on Power and Purpose; it features interviews with CEOs, governmental leaders and luminaries like Madeleine Albright, Tory Burch, Arianna Huffington and Valerie Jarrett. Download here.


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