Why We Should Empower Women Economically
April 21, 2016
Recently I participated in a conference organized by one of Accenture’s NGO partners CARE International. At the event, organized within the context of International Women’s Day, I was asked to speak about Accenture’s approach to supporting female entrepreneurship.
<<< Start >>>
<<< End >>>
During my talk, I presented a video of our Skills to Succeed program. It shows how my colleagues from Accenture Procurement in India develop former female waste pickers with skills to produce and sell stationary products. Watching the video, I was struck again by their stories.
Meet Jassi ben Hargovan: “When I was waste-picking, glass would pierce my feet. I would sometimes be bitten by dogs, and my hands would get dirty.” Jassi is a former waste-picker. Together with many other women, she used to walk 15 to 20 kilometers every day to collect and sell her waste. While being exposed to health hazards and violence, she only made 25 rupees (€0,33) a day. An income not even sufficient to prepare a healthy meal, let alone send children to school or save money.
Skills to Succeed is a collaborative program with WEConnect International and SEWA Gitanjali (Self-employed Women’s Association). Thanks to the program, a 100 former female waste-pickers are now able to make a decent income by making stationary products, such as note pads and springfiles from recycled paper. SEWA Gitanjali has the ambition to provide 5000 women with the same benefits by 2020!
Accenture’s Skills to Succeed program in India is featured in a report by CARE on Integrating women entrepreneurs in global supply chains. It is highlighted as one of the corporate initiatives that aim to make a difference and include more women in their value chains. The necessity of such initiatives becomes crystal clear when reading the report. Women still dramatically lag behind men on the labor market doing unpaid work (40%) or only make a modest income in the informal sector.
Did you know that according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, empowering women economically adds an extra 11 per cent to the global GDP by 2025?
Therefore, creating equal opportunities for women in employment and business is not only the right thing to do, it is simply good economics! Besides the economic benefits the social return on investing in women is massive. It helps women like Jassi to become independent, giving them hope of a brighter future without poverty and violence.
As a passionate believer in an inclusive world, I feel very fortunate to be one of the full-time drivers behind Accenture’s Supplier Inclusion and Diversity Program. We aim to engage more small and diverse businesses in our sourcing opportunities where possible and help entrepreneurs to grow, win contracts and sustain successful client relationships. That doesn’t just benefit the entrepreneurs, it also brings business value to Accenture. It enables us to broaden or scope in finding best-in-class suppliers who can bring innovation and cost-competitive solutions to Accenture and our clients.
Despite the fact that 35% of private businesses are owned by women, only 1% of corporate- and government spend goes to women-owned businesses. Luckily, a growing number of multinational corporations see the benefits of investing in women entrepreneurship as it supports the economies they operate in.
And it is not just corporations that are starting to see the importance of empowering women economically. On March 15th, the first-ever High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment kicked off. The panel operates under the aegis of the UN Secretary-General and intends to put gender equality high on the international agenda.
WEConnect International’s CEO Elizabeth Vazquez was invited to participate in this high profile panel which includes the world’s most influential economic players like Christine Lagarde from the International Monetary Fund and the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim.
And that is not all! Closer to my home, the Dutch government has started conversations with corporations and NGO’s to explore how we can collaborate to increase our impact on growing entrepreneurship in low-income countries. Consequently, several Dutch businesses plan on getting together. The objective is to include more women as employees as well as including more businesses run by women in their global supply chains.
For me, this proves that a powerful positive movement is accelerating. We can all be part of this movement working towards a more inclusive (business) world. And an inclusive world is exactly what we need for now and many generations to come.
If you would like to know more about how to bridge the existing gap between men and women within your corporation, government or NGO, read CARE’s report on Integrating women entrepreneurs in global supply chains. Or get inspired by the corporations featured in the report that are making a difference.
Want to be part of the movement? Check out Accenture’s Supplier Inclusion and Diversity Program on Accenture.com for more information.
Are you interested in inclusion and diversity in organizations? Then you might also like my article on LGBT business equality.