Women’s Businesses as Engine for GDP Growth

Laura Tyson

Laura Tyson

Women and girls have the most potential to produce economic growth, despite also being marginalized in many countries, according to University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Tyson, who served as chair of the US president’s Council of Economic Advisors.
She added that every year that a girl is in school increases her future income level and the country’s GDP.

Katie Drasser

Katie Drasser

Further, women’s increased workforce participation increases general economic prosperity:  Women who work invest an average of 90 percent of their income back into their families, and drive about 70 percent of global consumption, contributing to positive social and economic outcomes, noted The Aspen Institute’s Katie Drasser and Vanessa Martin of Feministing.

However, women’s economic participation and opportunity is about 15-25 percent less than men’s:  Only about half of working-age women are employed, and they earn only about 74 percent of men’s salaries when they have the same educational attainment and work in the same occupation.

Peter Roberts

Peter Roberts

Gender parity in labor-force participation rates would increase GDP by 12 percent in developed countries over the next 20 years – and even more in developing nations, estimated the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its report, Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now .
In addition, the report advocated equal access to financing for female and male entrepreneurs as well as policy support for women-owned enterprises around the world.

However, the ambitious scope of these recommendations was illustrated by the World Economic Forum’s estimate that it will take until after the beginning of the next century – 2200 – to close the economic gender gap and achieve related economic growth, according to its Global Gender Gap Report 2014.

Required changes to realize these economic benefits include:

  • Equal legal rights for women in land ownership and inheritance,
  • Equal access to credit and lending,
  • Equal educational opportunities from early childhood education to basic literacy through postgraduate training,
  • Elimination of discriminatory practices in recruitment, retention, and pay,
  • Elimination of tax disincentives that discourage women’s labor force participation,
  • Quantified and monitored targets for recruiting and retaining women,
  • Tax credits, benefits, and employment protections for low-wage and part-time workers,
  • Widespread access to affordable childcare, parental leave, and flexible work practices integration policies.

As a result, increasing numbers of startups focus on supporting women and girls, and women’s organizations are shifting in their fundraising habits from seeking foundation funding to generating revenue.

Sean Peters

Sean Peters

Paralleling technology accelerators that “jumpstart” new venture, The Girl Effect Accelerator recently launched an effort to assist 10 organizations improve the lives of disadvantaged girls and women.

The Accelerator provided high-profile mentors, strategic financing, and network partners, supported by the Nike Foundation and the Unreasonable Group, to promising social enterprises.
Social entrepreneurs have also received fellowships, training programs, seed funding, and resources from Propeller, Echoing Green, and other organizations.

Ventures included Embrace, which makes infant warmers for premature infants that cost less than 1 percent of the average incubator, and Jayashree Industries, which distributes affordable sanitary pads via 1,500-plus women-led franchises across India.

Saurabh Lall

Saurabh Lall

Emory’s Peter W. Roberts and Sean Peters with Saurabh Lall of Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs analyzed companies that participated in Social Impact Accelerator programs and found they have higher revenue generation than enterprises that didn’t receive this additional support, noted in their Impact of Entrepreneurship Database 2014 mid-year report.

One example is Agora Partnerships Impact Accelerator support of Maya Mountain Cacao‘s efforts to fulfill Eleos Foundation’s investment criteria, resulting $200,000 raised from in 20 investors.

Kristin Gilliss

Kristin Gilliss

In contrast, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) and Village Capital reported less positive results of social investment:  Only 31 percent of companies that worked with Social Impact Accelerators became profitable or received a significant investment.

Social Impact Accelerator success rate could be improved by:

  • Connecting investors with entrepreneurs,
  • Consistently adopting tech startup accelerators’ business models, to fulfill rigorous investment criteria, attract investors and raise funding,
  • Measuring and scaling actual impact, as advocated by Kristin Gilliss of the Mulago Foundation.

-*What additional policies and programs could increase the economic success and impact of social entrepreneurs?

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