This morning I had the privilege of moderating a fascinating panel on women’s entrepreneurship. The dynamic speakers included K. Shelly Porges, Senior Advisor leading the State Department’s Global Women’s Initiative, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Sweden Sheikha Najla Alqassimi, and Professor Mary Barrett from the University of Wollonkong.
The global symposium was organized by the Swedish non-profit organization, ESBRI, and served as the inaugural event for the coming year’s work aimed at creating a global knowledge and action network for enhancing women’s entrepreneurship with a theme of women’s entrepreneurship as both an economic force and a societal force to change society and contribute to sustainable growth.
Secretary Clinton has said: “talent is universal, opportunity is not.” This is the guiding principle behind the Global Women’s Business Initiative and a way of leveling the playing field to create opportunity for women around the world in entrepreneurship. This office utilizes policy and public-private partnerships to educate women on how to start a business, create programs to monitor their progress and facilitate support networks. See more information on the Global Entrepreneurship Program here.
The theme of the panel was deciphering a global outlook on different forms of entrepreneurship occurring around the world and how to maximize that potential. Cultural norms are critical to implementing these policies, and the challenges that women face in the Arab world are incredibly different that those in Africa or Australia. This is why having such a disparate group of women provided a very rich context for those of us listening. I found it fascinating hearing Ambassador Alqassimi discuss the burgeoning movement toward enterprise by middle class women with a lifetime’s worth of meticulous savings who want to join the marketplace, or the young generation of Emirati women who are increasingly more educated than me and craving a professional life. Professor Barrett’s assessments of Australia having equal numbers of men and women participating in entrepreneurship were also eye-opening.
However, one universal problem seemed to be a lack of confidence among women in every nation. According to statistics from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2010 Women’s Report less than half–47.7 percent–of women believe they are capable of starting a business, while well over half–62.1 percent–of men believe they are capable. One thing is crystal clear: if you don’t believe in yourself and your own ideas, no one else will.
It is essential to provide women with role models who can describe their varied journeys to success and show other women that their dreams too can become reality. I passionately believe this is the moment for women to finally break through the glass ceiling, partly because of the incredible global leadership promoting this issue by women like Secretary Hillary Clinton, but also because people, in particular the young generation, are sick of the “old way of doing business” and are demanding equal opportunities for all.
The full participation of women in the global economy is vital to prosperity, political stability and sustainable development. With female leaders like the ones mentioned in this blog, as well as male leaders such as Magnus Aronsson, the President of ESBRI, I am confident the new generation will be the women’s generation.