On International Women’s Day 2021, the theme is #ChooseToChallenge. The regressive impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic creates massive challenges, up to 100 million people may fall into extreme poverty. Global remittances, a critical source of income for many, have also fallen due to job losses for migrant workers. Remittances are expected to see the sharpest decline in recent history, falling by 19.7 percent to around US$445 billion, compared to US$554 billion in 2019. Mckinsey reports that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses. There has never been a more important time to address women’s equality.
Women are key to the global economy and control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending and women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined. McKinsey Global Institute found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. Shelly Porges of the Billion Dollar Fund for Women says “Women are innovating across the board in areas ranging from femtech, cleantech, fintech, agtech, etc. to SaaS, CPG, AI/ML, Robotics, Blockchain, and Cannabis.” Virginia Tan of Teja Ventures believes investing in the She Economy is the largest arbitrage opportunity globally. Women are agents of change in their families, communities and countries. Increasing the voice and participation of women is essential and increasing the number of women founders in technology and technology businesses focused on women will be an important enabler.
Now with mobile penetration and technology, we have the tools that will enable us to connect the bottom billion unbanked to the global economy, to provide digital identity to stateless people, to make micro grid solar power ubiquitous and through smart contracts, to direct benefits to women and girls. Women are central to any true economic growth and play an integral part in generating acceleration in developing economies. Women entrepreneurs exist and are already generating change for their families and communities, yet their potential has often been stifled. We need to identify these women, support them, and tackle the issues that perpetuate gender inequality and stifle entrepreneurial potential. Women are experts in identifying real problems, and figuring out efficient solutions – how do we mobilize this?
1. Create an enabling environment
Fostering an environment which allows women entrepreneurs to easily identify and establish connections with finance, legal support, suppliers and distributors and most importantly markets is critical to the sustainable success of their ventures and the growth in the economy.
2. Create Growth and Economic Opportunity
Women entrepreneurs are change-makers in society and inspire others to become self-reliant and take up entrepreneurship. Their success helps families, society, and local and regional economies by contributing to the growth of the nation. Women in emerging markets invest 90 cents of every additional dollar of income into “human resources”, which includes their families’ education, health, and nutrition (compared to 30–40% for men), thereby helping their families, communities, and nations. Women are good credit risks, and that they are more likely than men to funnel earnings back into their families and communities. They form the very foundation for stronger economies and actively work toward breaking the cycle of poverty. Women farmers produce 60% to 80% of the food in developing countries, and women own 60% of all global microenterprises.
Improved access to capital is essential. Investors need to proactively invest in female entrepreneurs, women led businesses and women fund managers; educate women about finance to help them grow assets and access to loans; and empower women through microfinance and small business lending. Actions to increase the supply of women entrepreneurs and capital need to be rapid, consistent, and widespread among the population, especially among poor women.
3. Improve Access to Technology
In 2016, the Human Rights Council declared access to the internet to be a basic human right. ” “The Internet is one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies,” As the global economy becomes more digital and more interconnected, the Internet has evolved into an essential tool for job searching, networking, conducting business, receiving and making payments for trade with buyers and suppliers, and receiving microcredit. A substantial divide persists between women and men in Internet access and use. In 2019, the proportion of women using the Internet globally was 48 per cent, compared to 58 percent of men. In relative terms, this means that the global Internet user gap was 17 per cent. A global effort is needed to ensure women and girls around the world have the access, and skills to take part in the digital economy.
4. Build Digital Capability
Programs are needed that drive technology education and make coding ubiquitous and a language that all children learn from the start of their education. Schools should integrate analytical thinking, digital technologies, and coding into their curricula from the first day children start school. This will help overcome gender biases, as it is part of the core curriculum- ensuring that all girls learn it. We also need to create new stereotypes for women in tech who are smart and managing both tech and motherhood and find female tech entrepreneurs across the globe and profile them and use them to mentor younger women.
5. Use Technology to Shape Social Attitudes
Social attitudes towards women in technology are an inhibitor, so using technology platforms to empower and encourage women will be an important enabler. Successful female entrepreneurs can be role models and utilize their network and community to develop the platform for a global effort to purposefully curate and shape a digital influencing strategy as a driver of women’s entrepreneurship. Voice activation for reach is key, especially for those impacted by digital exclusion and poor literacy levels as well as those with disabilities, voice activation could have a profound impact. All content should be able to work with voice activation.
6. Invest in Products and Services that Benefit Women and Girls
As well as investing in women entrepreneurs, invest in products that benefit women and girls. These include those that ease household and caregiving or improved safety for women; improve health and education for women and products that mitigate problems often disproportionately impacting women such as access to energy, clean water, safe housing.
To women globally, I say embrace technology, it is your future. We must create the enabling environment for women to work in technology. Tech generally is an ideal area for women, because it allows them flexible working hours and arrangements. We need to help women and girls across the world to create their own future. If we think less about what others think and more about what we can do, individually and collectively – we will succeed. The next generation of women will be better off because technology will enable flexible working conditions and even transform childcare.
Technology innovation is how we can change the world, create new and better things, and solve complex problems. It is about breaking the rules and creating new rules. The world is changing at an exponential pace never before experienced by humankind. Smart phones can give answers in seconds. Traditional concepts of ownership are changing assets can be now tokenized. Invest in women and technology, a game changer for anyone who is thinking about transforming women’s lives. “When women and girls are empowered with technology, the whole world benefits”