Aspiring women entrepreneurs from a number of Western Hemisphere nations gathered in Washington, D.C. October 7th, 8th, and 9th, for the first-of-its-kind Women Entrepreneurs conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
At the conference, some 40 aspiring women entrepreneurs were partnered with 40 mentors - experienced women entrepreneurs with expertise in international business and trade. The mentors, who come from the United States, the Caribbean, and South America, will continue to share their knowledge and experience with aspiring entrepreneurs as they visit them in their home countries over the next year.
Workshops at the conference included access to regional markets, financing, technology and business training. Among the products exhibited by the participants were textiles from Peru, aromatherapy mixes from Costa Rica, jewelry from Honduras, and energy drinks from Colombia.
At the conference were experienced investors and global service company representatives, as well as nongovernmental organizations such as Vital Voices, a women's empowerment organization,
Ernest & Young [a global professional services firm], and Count Me In, a support organization for women in business.
"Out of these connections," said Marsha McLean, U.S. State Department coordinator for the conference, "is an opportunity for these women to find economic stability for their families, their communities and their regions."
The Women's Entrepreneurs Conference was facilitated by the U.S. State Department under the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas Initiative. The U.S. and 11 other Western Hemisphere nations launched the Pathways Initiative in September 2008 to ensure that the benefits of trade were shared more broadly within member societies and to deepen economic cooperation among partner nations. Membership has since expanded to include 14 countries.
At the May 2009 Pathways ministerial meeting in El Salvador, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged expansion of Pathways goals to include a focus on social justice and social inclusion, especially efforts that transfer the benefits of trade to the poor.
"Let us embark together down a new path defined by shared responsibilities, shared opportunities and a commitment to improve the life of every citizen of the Americas," said Secretary Clinton. "We are part of the same family, this continent is our common home, and we inhabit a common future. Let us do all we can to harness the untapped human potential that covers this vast hemisphere.