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Women Entrepreneurs Grow Economies

An entrepreneur sorts beads in Haiti.
An entrepreneur sorts beads in Haiti.

Too frequently, businesswomen face barriers that undermine their ability to start or to expand their business.

One of the best ways to jump-start a sluggish economy is to empower women. Numerous studies done by the World Bank, the investment bank Goldman Sachs, the World Economic Forum, universities, think tanks and corporations, have concluded that investing in women is enormously profitable. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton put it:

"The evidence should be clear to everyone by now: countries that include women are more economically competitive. Businesses owned by women make considerable contributions to their national economies. But too often, their growth is limited by unfair, unequal barriers."

All too frequently, businesswomen face barriers that undermine their ability to start or to expand their business. Some women can’t inherit property or businesses owned by their fathers or husbands. Some don’t have the power to confer citizenship on their children, making it difficult to find housing and work, and schools for their children. Some are even subject to different taxes than men, and are denied access to banking services such as credit, bank accounts, signing contracts, purchasing property, incorporating a business, or filing lawsuits without a male guardian.

Many women entrepreneurs also find it difficult to access markets, training, mentors, and technology. They struggle with discriminatory laws and regulations or practices structured specifically to hinder women.

But laws and practices that propagate gender inequality also hinder prosperity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, closing gender inequality between 1960 and 1992 could have doubled economic growth over that time period. By limiting women's ability to join the workforce, the Asia and Pacific region is losing some $42 to $47 billion annually, and another $16 to $30 billion as a result of gender gaps in education.

Simply put, gender inequality is hurting economies. The United States believes that any country that desires to diminish its financial woes should empower its women and girls, and help female entrepreneurs flourish.

"The United States is committed to advancing opportunities for women as entrepreneurs and business leaders," said Secretary of State Clinton. "We view it as both a moral and strategic imperative for the 21st century. That’s why we are helping women entrepreneurs with business training and mentoring; and support policies that improve women’s access to finance, technology, and networks."