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“Empowering women is smart economics”

Zia Morales's picture

As World Bank Managing Director Caroline Anstey said in her remarks at last Thursday’s event on women in the private sector, women make up nearly 50 percent of the world’s population. Despite this, they are only 40.8 percent of the formal global labor market.  This gap represents a vast economic potential that could have the power to create jobs, drive economic growth and transform the global economy as we currently know it—shaky, stagnant and according to some of the data, in recession.

Sleeping giantess awakes

Empowering women entrepreneurs is good for development and business. Tune in to World Bank Live on October 11, 2012 10:30 a.m JST. to hear Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and World Bank Group President Jim Kim talk #womenbiz at this year's Annual Meetings.

I’m in Tokyo. The changing colours of the autumn leaves, which would normally preoccupy the nation and its visitors, have been replaced – well, in Tokyo anyway – by fluttering street banners announcing the fact that the city is hosting the 2012 IMF/World Bank Group Annual Meetings. There’s a throng of people – 20,000 is the number bandied about – representing government and private sector delegations from around the world, and they are all here to discuss the status of international economic and financial developments for inclusive growth.

As Director, Women’s Markets, Westpac Group and because of our leadership as a corporation and a country in promoting women’s access to finance, I’ve been invited by the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, to attend a number of events focused on women in the private sector.Supporting women-run businesses is good for the economy (Credit: Ericsson Beach, Flickr Creative Commons)

In many developing economies, between 30 and 40 percent of the entrepreneurs running small or medium sized businesses are women.

Cultural and legislative barriers, such as preventing married women from opening bank accounts, or restrictions on women’s work, are becoming less overt in many places. However, women entrepreneurs – be it in first, third or the developing world nations - often find it difficult to raise capital to grow their businesses and for all sorts of reasons. 

Banking on Women in Egypt

Empowering women entrepreneurs is good for development and business. Tune in to World Bank Live on October 11, 2012 10:30 a.m JST. to hear Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and World Bank Group President Jim Kim talk #womenbiz at this year's Annual Meetings.

Research has shown that gender equality makes good business sense, and is key to promoting economic growth. But women continue to be excluded from the economic sphere. This is certainly the case in Egypt, which could use an economic boost in a time of transition—especially as millions of famAccess to finance is changing lives of Egyptian women, and their families for the better. (Credit: World Bank)ilies that rely on the slumping tourism industry are having trouble making ends meet.
Indeed, our research has found that would-be Egyptian women entrepreneurs face many obstacles.  For one, being approved for financing can be a challenge for Egyptian women entrepreneurs. Businesswomen in Egypt are also disadvantaged when it comes to the cost of finance. Banks have stricter collateral requirements for loans to women entrepreneurs, which are perceived as higher-risk. Providing collateral is also an obstacle for many women who are under the guardianship of male relatives and unable to independently manage their assets.

Why does the legal environment matter for women’s access to capital?

When asked about what she thought was key in advancing women’s rights, Cherie Blair, lawyer and founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, replied, “I believe that actually financial independence is very important so we need a financial framework that recognizes women as equals, that enables them to have access to finance, access to capital to have their own financial independence.”  For women in the developing world, property rights can be a factor in getting access to finance. (Credit: World Bank Photos)

And this brings to the table another question: What are the hurdles that women face when trying to access capital?

For many women entrepreneurs across the world, getting a loan to start or expand their business can prove challenging. This is particularly true in the developing world where banks often require borrowers to pledge their home or land as collateral. Women, who tend to lack such assets, are placed at a disadvantage. Legal restrictions on women’s property rights can exacerbate the problem.

Kiev's Insane Housing Market

David Lawrence's picture

Svetlana Nikolaevna had never seen so much cash in her life. It was her family’s life savings, a huge stack of $100 bills, totaling $250,000. The girl behind the glass was counting it, verifying the authenticity of each bill with a scanner that beeped its approval if everything looked OK. Then, just to be sure, the girl examined each note under an ultraviolet light.

Bringing mobile money to the world

Editor's Note: Michael Joseph is the World Bank Group's first fellow and was previously the CEO of Safaricom.

Mobile money has gone viral. In Kenya there are now more than 15 million mobile money users, which is equivalent to three in four adults. The company I was heading until last November, Safaricom has developed the world’s largest mobile money platform M-Pesa, which is being used by more than 14 million Kenyans. Over the last three years the growth of mobile money has been exponential. In December we reached a new threshold when the equivalent of US$ 1 billion was transferred. This is more than Western Union has transferred in all of 2010 globally! This has changed the lives of Kenyans—it created new jobs, new businesses and new opportunities for millions of people.

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