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eJournal USA: Enterprising Women, Thriving Societies

01 March 2012
Trainer with people using exercise equipment (Courtesy of Bodytech)

Women exercise in a gym in Bogotá, Colombia, part of the fitness chain started by Gigiola Aycardi.

Policymakers and business experts have pitched entrepreneurship to women as a way to realize their aspirations and make a good living. Several multinational corporations have programs to promote women entrepreneurs, including Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women, Ernst & Young’s Winning Women, Coca-Cola’s 5 BY 20 and Walmart’s Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative. All of this activity begs the question: Is this merely good corporate public relations, or is there actually a business case for women’s entrepreneurship?

Study after study has shown that the economic empowerment of women leads to poverty alleviation. As countries’ economic output grows, the range of options for women to contribute to the economy expands. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, citing economists, said that “women’s increased participation in the global labor market in the developed world accounted for a greater share of global growth than China’s” over the last decade.

Around the world women entrepreneurs are increasingly visible as they start and grow their ventures into successful small businesses or global enterprises. Yet women’s business potential is far from being fully realized. In both developed and developing countries, would-be women entrepreneurs need better access to training, capital and technical resources, as well as more exposure to business opportunities in the greater global supply chain.

My portfolio, a part of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Entrepreneurship Program, consists of several initiatives designed to help women realize their entrepreneurial potential. The African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program brings women business owners from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States for training and valuable business networking. In September 2011, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum’s Women and the Economy Summit laid a foundation for the continuing agenda of empowering women in the 21 APEC economies. And the Pathways Access Initiative (PAI) was built as a pilot program for training and connecting qualified women-owned businesses to U.S. corporations seeking to diversify and expand their supply chains. The goal for the PAI model is to “go global” in the near future.

This issue of eJournal USA encourages women to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. It cites the experiences of businesswomen around the world and features successful women entrepreneurs who can serve as role models. It also identifies barriers and best practices for overcoming them. I hope you will find the contents inspiring and useful.

— Jackie Piatt Spedding

Jackie Piatt Spedding is the senior adviser for the Global Women’s Business Initiative in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

Women Entrepreneurs Energize Economies
Laurel J. Delaney, small business consultant, founder of GlobeTrade.com
Hungry for recognition and a better living, women in the developing world vie for business success.

Sidebar: Tips on How to Start a Business
First, don’t allow fear and lack of confidence to hold you back.

Sidebar: A Close-up on Women’s Entrepreneurship
Studies often contradict the traditional picture.

Building Business Story by Story in Benin
Andrzej Zwaniecki
Running a hair salon, Maryam Sikira experiences a flash of inspiration: If I serve drinks, why not food?

Women Can Have Fun as Technology Entrepreneurs
Vinita Gupta, high-tech entrepreneur, founder of Digital Link Corporation
When women innovate, they feel elated.

Betting on E-Commerce
Andrzej Zwaniecki
Janette Toral has been called the “mother of electronic commerce” in the Philippines.

Proudly Made in Albania
Andrzej Zwaniecki
Donika Mici sees an opportunity in empty store shelves.

Sewing a Pattern of Business Success in the West Bank
M. Scott Bartot
Fatima al-Jada establishes a business in Qalqiliya with a single sewing machine.

From Gym to Fitness Transformation in Colombia
Andrzej Zwaniecki
Gigliola Aycardi became an entrepreneur so she could set her own work — and work-out — schedule.

Weaving Business of Energy Reconstruction in Afghanistan
Andrzej Zwaniecki
When Masooma Habibi was close to giving up, something told her: Don’t stop! Try harder!

Photo Gallery: How Did You Start Your Business?
Six successful U.S. women entrepreneurs were inspired by life events, chance meetings or personal passions.

Additional Materials

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)