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Promoting Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East


Women carry gas cylinders to fill them at a distribution point in Cairo January 19, 2015.

The U.S. State Department is partnering with the private sector to promote entrepreneurship among women around the world and in the Middle East and Northern Africa in particular.

The U.S. State Department is partnering with the private sector to promote entrepreneurship among women around the world and in the Middle East and Northern Africa in particular.

Most recently, the State Department joined with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and Harvard Kennedy School to develop the first-ever cross-border exchange and leadership program to support emerging women leaders in the Middle East and Northern Africa. This public-private partnership between government, academia and the private sector aims to cultivate the leadership potential of women in the region, promote women’s economic empowerment, and strengthen entrepreneurship.

“It is critically important for the people of this region,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry,“to get their economies moving and women are essential for the region to realize its potential. Time and again,” he said, "we see that countries with the greatest representation of women in management positions deliver a higher return to shareholders than those who push women out."

So the bottom line is simple, said Secretary Kerry, "No country can get ahead if it leaves half its people behind. . . .No economy can thrive if women are denied a seat at the table." In the Middle East, there is significant discrimination against women. Women participate in the workplace in the region at only half the rate found in other parts of the world. The result is immense loss of productivity for the region.

Aside from opportunity, women need access to education and professional training that prepares them to enter the workforce.The U.S. Government and its private sector partners are working to equip women with the tools necessary to be successful entrepreneurs.

To that end the State Department is continuing to partner with the private sector to invest in women at all levels. TechWomen, an international exchange program that supports U.S. foreign policy goals in technology, increases the trade capacity of its partners and helps women reach their full potential in the tech industry. The Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership connects senior women business executives in the United States with emerging women business leaders from around the world.

Countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa and around the globe must understand that when women thrive, their economies will thrive.

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