Opportunities and Challenges for Equity, Inclusive Growth, and Sustainability
Washington, DC January 2020. Women’s Economic Empowerment: Opportunities and Challenges for Equity, Inclusive Growth, and Sustainability were topics discussed during the first international women’s economic empowerment conference held in November in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Hosted at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Gogarburn Business School, the conference was presented by Women’s Economic Imperative (WEI), the global collaborative initiative, in partnership with Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), the community interest company which focuses on the contribution women’s enterprise makes to the Scottish economy.
The conference gathered international speakers, thought leaders and change makers representing civil society, academia as well as private and public sectors from across the globe. It focussed on sharing knowledge, engaging participants in active dialog, and catalysing concrete actions to help advance women’s economic empowerment. Driving the agenda were the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the work of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, and the outcomes of the T-20 Task Force on Gender Economic Equity.
Participants heard from women who have broken cultural and industry barriers as they progressed careers in sectors such as technology, medicine, aviation, and finance. Speakers included technology evangelist Professor Sue Black; Kenyan Airways Captain and first female African Dreamliner pilot, Captain Irene Koki Mutungi, and the Hon. Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera, Former President of Costa Rica and Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. Prominent Scottish and global industry leaders such as Malcolm Buchanan, RBS Chair of Scotland Board; Keith Skeoch, CEO Standard Life Aberdeen, the Rt Hon. Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chairman, Mastercard were joined by leading global academics, businessmen and women, and international diplomats to share findings and discuss best practices.
The two-day conference broke new ground in advancing the discussion on gender at the intersection of economics, politics, geography and health. It culminated in a commitment for action from several sectors including health, technology, finance, enterprise and education, as it focused on the importance of concrete actions across societies, industry and governments. Hon Luis Guillermo Sallis Rivera emphasized in his keynote speech that the seven key drivers of economic empowerment are relevant across all sectors and geographies, whether it is industry or health; at home or in the workplace. From tackling adverse norms and promoting positive role models; ensuring the right legal protection; recognising unpaid work and care; building and owning financial and digital assets to empower economically, to changing mind-sets and behaviours, and eliminating barriers in cultures, the work place and markets.
Dr. Margo Thomas, Founder and President of WEI explained, “We all know the key issues and drivers of women’s economic empowerment. We must focus now on actions. As a global organization, WEI, with the support of our WEI Board and Advisory Council, is leveraging its global networks, affiliations, and partnerships to share knowledge, craft solutions, and catalyse concrete actions to help advance women’s economic empowerment and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the benefit of all.”
In welcoming the conference attendees to Edinburgh during the opening reception at City Chambers, the Right Honourable Lord Provost of Edinburgh noted that Scotland is making strides in creating an environment where more women and girls can start up in business and thrive
Carolyn Currie, Chief Executive, Women’s Enterprise Scotland explained that “As a catalyst for economic growth and inclusion, WES works to create an environment where women can start up in business and thrive. The simple fact is that more women-owned businesses in Scotland means more money for the economy. Research shows that women-owned businesses already contribute a staggering GBP 8.8 bn into the economy every year and have created over 230,000 jobs in local communities across Scotland.”
Women’s equality and empowerment is one of the United Nations’ 17 SDGs and is central to all aspects of inclusive and sustainable development. The G20, leaders of the most powerful 20 countries in the world, made this commitment at their summit in Osaka in June 2019: “Gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential for achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth. We reconfirm their importance in all aspects of our policies and as a cross-cutting issue at upcoming Summits.” However, according to the SDG Index research, no country is currently on track to achieve all SDG’s by 2030.
WEI has released the following post conference statement where participants recognized that:
Female entrepreneurship represents a vast, but under-valued source of innovation, job creation and economic growth globally.
Women’s entrepreneurship is not homogeneous. It is manifested in different ways, in different contexts and geographies. Moreover, women entrepreneurs face unique challenges in terms of their access to opportunities, markets, and resources.
Women-owned and women-led businesses create jobs, support communities, and achieve higher productivity, innovation, and exports.
We must take a disruptive approach to tackling the systemic barriers to women’s economic participation and to reducing the widening gaps in incomes, access to resources, health and resilience. When women are better off, societies are better off.
Access to education, digital and financial resources must be more inclusive to help unleash the potential of girls and women entrepreneurs. Women and girls must be included in the transformation to a digital society to facilitate leapfrogging productivity and social development.
Women’s health is a critical economic and social value. The health and prosperity of women are inexorably bound up with the social determinants of health and wellbeing of a population.
Participants made commitments to action in several key areas. WEI is committed to catalyzing action and supporting the implementation of key commitments wherever feasible.
The platinum sponsors of the conference were The Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Life Aberdeen and Mastercard. Additional sponsors included AllAfrica, the University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School, Newcastle University Business School, Durham University Business School, Portsmouth University and Business Gateway Edinburgh, among others.
Photos from the event may be viewed here. Reproduction of any of these photos is only for personal use. Consent for release of any of the images on a commercial basis must be sought in writing by email to email@example.com.
 Berteslmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (2018) viii
Investment, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship for Productive Capacity-Building and Sustainable Development
A WEI delegation took part in the 7th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Multi-Year Expert Meeting on Enhancing the Inclusive Dimension of Enterprise Development which took place at the Palais des Nations, Geneva between 17-19th June 2019.
The delegation consisted of Yolanda Gibb, Trade Lead, who was a discussant during the session covering Empowering Women Entrepreneurs; Noreen Burroughes Cesareo and Nicole Pitter Patterson.
The Expert Meeting which brought together delegates from countries around the United Nations, discussed how the sustainable and inclusive dimension of enterprise development could be enhanced by promoting responsible business practices, corporate social responsibility and inclusive entrepreneurship that can facilitate progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
To read more about this meeting click here.
On June 13, 2019, the University of Ottawa Telfer Centre for Executive Leadership, in collaboration with Ryerson University Diversity Institute, launched the report Strengthening Ecosystem Supports for Women Entrepreneurs and related i2 video.
According to Telfer School of Management Dr. Barbara Orser, i2 Project Leader and WEI Board member: “This report provides us with a better understanding of the challenges for small business and innovation organizations in supporting the inclusion of diverse women entrepreneurs. The study establishes Canadian benchmarks to monitor progress, and presents new insight about assessing organizational practices. The findings can be used by other economies to construct ‘gender-smart’ organizational and entrepreneurship education and training criteria.”
To see read more about this report, click here.
SheLeadsIT (WEI Partner) Caribbean Girls Hack, represented by Nicole Pitter Patterson (WEI Trade) participated as a panelist at the CGI Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery held June 3-4 in St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands. In 2018, the Clinton Foundation launched the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Action Network on Post-Disaster building on CGI’s proven Commitment to Action model. This Action Network brings together leaders from across sectors to develop new, specific, and measurable plans that advance recovery and promote long-term resiliency across the region.
To see additional photos and read more about this partnership, click here.
Three members of the WEI delegation are included in the photo above: Dinah Bennett (WEI Global Lead, Entrepreneurship); Dr Margo Thomas (WEI Founder and CEO); and Helen Ni Huan (WEI Associate, Entrepreneurship).
More pictures of WEI at the T20 Summit in Tokyo can be found on Flickr here.
Dr. Thomas moderated and led a spirited discussion on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) and its importance for the achievement of the SDGs based on the 2019 policy briefs on gender in the changing world of work and measuring WEE.
To read more about the work and outcomes of the Task Force on Gender Economic Equity and the 2019 G20 Communique’s declarations on gender equity follow this link.
Policy Briefs Published:
T20 2019 – Japanese Presidency
- A Gendered Perspective on Changing Demographics: Implications for Labour, Financial and Digital Equity
- Women’s Economic Empowerment: Strengthening Public and Private Sector Impact through Accountability and Measurement (SDG 5)
T20 2018 – Argentinian Presidency
On May 14 2019, SheLeadsIt (WEI Partner) was one of three organizations recognized by High Commissioner Laurie Peters, Global Affairs Canada #FacesforEquality Campaign in Technology and Innovation, for our work empowering girls and women in tech in Jamaica.
The Honourable Fayval Williams, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Jamaica with High Commissioner Laurie Peters, Global Affairs Canada presents the #FacesforEquality in Technology & Innovation Award to SheLeadsIT.
To read more about how SheLeadsIT engages young girls in tech, click here.
The Women’s Economic Imperative (WEI) delegation at the Berlin Global Solutions Summit included: Amadou Mahtar Ba – WEI Board Chair; Dinah Bennett – WEI Global Lead, Entrepreneurship; Yolanda Gibb – WEI Lead, Trade; Nicola Patterson – WEI Co-Lead, Thought Leadership; Douglas Richardson – WEI Board Member; and Margo Thomas, WEI Founder and CEO.
Dr. Thomas, co-chair of the working group on gender economic equity, served as moderator of the session “Promoting women’s economic empowerment; strengthening measurement to deepen impact.”
Ultimately, WEI’s presence at the Global Solutions Summit was part of a broader push to empower women economically and more accurately measure the impact of these efforts.
WEI hosted a panel discussion titled “Women and Girls: The Intersection of Health and Geography” at the American Association of Geographers’ 2019 Annual Conference in Washington DC moderated by WEI CEO Margo Thomas. The Panelists were Nanlesta Pilgrim (Population Council), Lisa Jones (Cerner Corporation), Georges Tadonki (University of South Africa), and Alicia Hammond (World Bank Group).
More than 100 women from within the continent of Africa and across the diaspora participated in the second Pan African Women in Health (PAWH1) Conference, held this March in Johannesburg, South Africa. Following its successful inaugural conference in 2018, the second PAWH’s Conference, themed “Balance for Better,” aimed to bring together inspirational and aspirational women in health and to celebrate those whose efforts have led to the transformation of the field.
WEI Board Member, Dr. Yonette Thomas, gave the keynote lecture on “The Health of Women and Girls in Africa as an Economic Imperative”, presenting the strong case for the interconnectedness of women’s health and economic development and its impact on an individual level, through to institutional and national outcomes.
In all, the second PAWH Conference was a huge success. This conference highlighted PAWH’s goals by creating a space that allowed women to grow through learning, network for impact and equip them with skills and resources to challenge gender norms and beyond.
Read our blog post about the conference here.
In December, WEI CEO Margo Thomas and team member Gerald Chirinda attended the Business Africa Forum 2018 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The event brought together the heads of development banks, emerging business leaders, and companies from Africa. Margo and Gerald participated in several Women Empowering Africa sessions focused on the policy agenda for women’s economic empowerment and ecosystems for women’s entrepreneurship.
Women’s Economic Imperative (WEI) was well-represented and contributed substantively during the T20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina! WEI Board Members Barbara Orser and Amadou Mahtar Ba were discussants in several sessions and side events and CEO Margo Thomas was Co-Chair of the Gender Economic Equity Task Force. In addition, WEI partners were represented by Women’s Enterprise Scotland‘s (WES) CEO Carolyn Currie and Board Chair Lynne Cadenhead. Carolyn and Lynne were members of the Task Force and contributed to the Policy Brief on the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women.
Dr Margo Thomas, WEI CEO, served as Co-Chair of the Gender Economic Equity Task Force and co-leader on the women’s empowerment agenda of the T20. She moderated break out sessions at the Summit and at the Ministry of Labour side event, in addition to participating in the closing plenary session – keynote conversation with think tank leaders and President Macri’s Chief Minister – Marcos Peña.
Board Members Orser and Ba participated in a plenary panel on Gender Economic Equity:
- Barbara presented her work on women’s entrepreneurship, drawing on one of her recent books – Feminine Capital; and
- Amadou spoke about the role of the media in influencing perceptions and norms on women’s economic empowerment
In addition, Barbara was a keynote speaker at a symposium hosted by the Argentine Ministry of Labour, Employment & Social Security on Women, Labour and Economic Growth. To read more about the work and outcomes of the Task Force on Gender Economic Equity and the 2018 G20 Communique’s declarations on gender equity follow this link.
WEI Forward and ICE (International Consultants for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise) have been working on the programme “Women entrepreneurs – Going for Growth” since July 2018. This project was one of three projects to receive funding from the UK Embassy in Lima, competing with more than 50 other initiatives.
On August 14, “Going for Growth” was launched at the Residence of the UK Ambassador Ms. Kate Harrison in Lima and the Minister of State for the UK Department of International Trade, Baroness Fairhead. Yolanda Gibb and Graciela Hijar from WEI attended the event to present the project and answered questions from the public.
The main objective of the project is to unleash women’s entrepreneurship in non-traditional sectors by increasing their leadership and business capacities and strengthening their networks in order to develop growth in their businesses. The focus is to develop a positive environment and capacities to reduce the gender gap in business owners in non-traditional sectors. Find out more about “Going for Growth”.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Month, November 2018
Women’s Economic Imperative participated in a number of events in the United Kingdom during Women’s Entrepreneurship Month, November 2018. These events included:
- Birmingham. The Global Women’s Economic Policy (GWEP) Meeting organized by Professor Colette Henry, Sten K Johnson European Entrepreneurship Education Laureate and Head of Department of Business Studies, Dundalk Institute of Technology. WEI was represented by Dinah Bennett, Yolanda Gibb, Barbara Orser, and Margo Thomas.
- Edinburgh. WEI participated in a roundtable discussion organized by Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) to discuss the WES’ contribution to the Think 20 Policy Brief on Women in the Rural Economy and the findings of the WES report on Women in Enterprise in Scotland Report.
- Newcastle. Dinah Bennett and Margo Thomas participated in VentureFest North East. This event which attracted hundreds of start-ups from across the North East of England was organized by the Innovation SuperNetwork North East England as part of the North East LEP’s innovation programme.
- Durham. Dr Margo Thomas participated in a presentation and discussion on Women’s Economic Empowerment and The Costs of Inequity. This event was hosted and co-sponsored by Dr. Susan Frenk, Principal of St Aidan’s College at Durham University in partnership with Societal Innovation and Enterprise Forum, (SIEF) Durham University. Approximately 50 participants representing academia, private sector and policy makers attended and actively engaged in discussion following the presentation. Dr. Nicola Patterson, Senior Lecturer in the University of Newcastle Business School, commented that this was “A thought provoking and inspiring seminar and conversation … A sign of a great event when you leave wanting more!”
Mireille Toulekima, a member of the WEI network and a global energy expert specializing in developing and emerging markets, launched her business, the Mireille Toulekima Global Leadership Organization, on December 6th. Through various targeted programs, Mireille aims to share her knowledge of the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of leadership. In February 2019, she will be hosting a special leadership program for women.
Dinah Bennett of WEI and Dr Nicola Patterson of Newcastle University, in the United Kingdom, have launched Gender and Entrepreneurship North East (GENE) of England to fill a gap that exists in the region in terms of policy and practice for women’s entrepreneurship. The first scoping event in September was a great success and GENE is planning further events in different parts of the region over the coming months.
On the launch of the initiative, Dinah Bennett and Dr Nicola Patterson underscored two points they wished to make clear about the agenda of GENE: GENE’s focus/outcome is about equity, not equality and initiatives to boost women’s entrepreneurship should not be about “fixing women”. Rather, the challenge is to address the societal and structural barriers which create and perpetuate inequity.
Stay posted for GENE’s upcoming events and connect with GENE here.
On a recent trip to China, Dinah Bennett was invited to deliver a presentation at the Shanghai Impact Hub, on ‘Best Practices in Women’s Economic Empowerment’ where she spoke of some of the projects she has worked on in the UK, The Balkans, India, Bangladesh and Peru. She used examples from her work to highlight both good and bad practice in supporting women at all stages of starting and growing a business. Read more here.
WEI Champion News & Highlights
WEI Champion Michelle Chivunga participated in a series of events in 2018 where she underscored the opportunities of digital technologies, in particular, blockchain, for women’s empowerment. Michelle was a guest speaker at the “Scaling Up in the Digital World” conference held at Surrey University, UK, in March 2018. She was also a guest speaker at the “Oxford Africa Conference A Disruptive Digital Revolution – utilizing emerging alternative technologies to tackle Africa’s challenges” which took place at the Said Business School in Oxford, UK, in May.
WEI Board Member & Champion Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke (also Founder of W4) was a guest speaker at the UNCTAD World Investment Forum in Geneva in October, where she spoke about women’s digital inclusion & equality and the opportunities for women’s digital entrepreneurship. Lindsey was also invited to speak on the subject of women in tech at the OECD (during the Women’s Forum) in Paris in November where Lindsey stressed the imperative of bridging the digital gender divide (read more: New York Times).
WEI Champion Gerald Chirinda (Founder of Future Africa Forum) was a contributor to several press publications in 2018, notably on the subject of women’s economic empowerment opportunities in Africa (World Economic Forum) and the socioeconomic and political future of Zimbabwe (Mail & Guardian).
Wema Dinner of Hope, 3 November 2018
Wema (which means “goodness” in Swahili) offers life-changing, holistic care and support for street children, orphans and other vulnerable children and youth living in slums in the Mombasa and Thika districts in Kenya. The organization helps at-risk children and youth to build better futures for themselves by providing child care, health care, psycho-social support, remedial and formal educational support, and vocational training. On November 3rd, WEI Champion Said Tahir and the Wema team held a fundraising event in honor of the children and youth they continue to support, successfully raising $215,000.
WEI has partnered with W4 (Women’s WorldWide Web) to raise funds and garner in-kind support to equip a modern library at the Muzinda Girls’ Technology Training School in Burundi, the first school of its kind in Burundi and which was opened in July 2018. The project aims to equip the school library with books, computers, and online training tools and resources. Find out more.
African Women in the Media 2018 Conference
The African Women in the Media Conference will bring together the largest gathering of female African media content producers from all over the world. The conference to be held June 21st to the 22nd will welcome well-known speakers from the journalism, film and communications sectors as well as NGOs and activists. The conference will include training workshops, project presentations and a Pitch Zone where freelancers can pitch their ideas to international and national media, namely, to representatives from BBC, CNN, Premier Times Nigeria and TheCable, among others. Additionally, a part of the conference will be dedicated to AWIM Production Grant awards ceremony.
Taking Forward the Women’s Economic Empowerment Agenda
On November 29th to December 1st, 2017, the Women’s Economic Imperative (WEI) launched its collaboration with Wilton Park and AllAfrica as part of the Women’s Entrepreneurship activities in the United Kingdom. The event held at Wiston House in West Sussex, England included an action-oriented Forum on Taking Forward the Women’s Economic Empowerment Agenda.
This Forum brought together a diverse group of approximately 60 participants from 26 countries representing government, civil society and the private sector. The Taking Forward the Women’s Economic Empowerment Agenda Forum was organized as part of our collective, ongoing response to the call to action issued by the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment on September 2016 and March 2017.