A year ago on September 21st, recognizing that no country can achieve it’s potential by engaging just a half of its population, President Obama spoke about expanding Women’s Political and Economic Participation at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He challenged the world to break down barriers to women’s political and economic empowerment with the Declaration on Women’s Participation. He said: “Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”
This year, while the UN General Assembly convened the leaders of the world to commit to Obama’s challenge, the WINS 2012 community was also putting their aspirations to work by designing #pursepower for women’s economic empowerment and other audaciously actionable initiatives.
Here are some excerpts from the UN General Assembly report September 2012:
While the world has seen important progress in expanding opportunity for women and girls, significant gaps remain in the areas of political participation and economic opportunity. A growing body of evidence shows that women’s political and economic empowerment are critical to fostering international peace and security, growing vibrant market economies, and supporting open and accountable governance.
Answering the Call
In response to this challenge, on September 24, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the Equal Futures Partnership on behalf of the United States along with 12 other founding members (Australia, Benin, Bangladesh, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, and Tunisia; as well as the European Union). Multilateral stakeholders including UN Women and the World Bank, and leading businesses and non-profit institutions also pledged support for the partnership.
The goal of the Equal Futures Partnership is for women to participate fully in public life and to lead and benefit from inclusive economic growth. Today, founding members are committing to new actions including legal, regulatory and policy reforms to advance this goal. Partners are also reaffirming at the highest levels of government their obligations and commitments to promote and protect women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. Following the launch of this initiative, founding partners will continue consultations with their national stakeholders, including civil society, to translate commitments into action. In April 2013, there will be reconvening at the World Bank Spring Meetings to share progress reports and welcome new member countries.
Commitments to Action
As a founding member of the Equal Futures Partnership, the United States is making new commitments, building on existing efforts, including:
- Opening doors to quality education and high-paying career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields: The Administration will embark on a new collaboration with private and non-profit stakeholders to reverse women’s historic under-representation in STEM education and careers.
- Promoting civic education and public leadership for girls: In an effort to inspire girls to serve as leaders in our democracy, the Administration, along with leaders from the private and non-profit sectors, is announcing new efforts to highlight women in public leadership as role models, encourage research on girls and leadership, and spark the development of online tools to interest girls in becoming public leaders.
- Strengthening support for women entrepreneurs: The Small Business Administration, along with other federal agency partners, will expand entrepreneurship training programs for women veterans, youth, and older women, as well as focus new efforts around encouraging women innovators.
In response to the President Obama’s call to action, several leading U.S. businesses, academic institutions and non-profit organizations have also made commitments to advance women and girls’ economic and political empowerment at home and abroad. They are dedicating themselves to launching new and innovative programs to support women and girls in STEM fields, connecting women entrepreneurs to markets and supply chains, and supporting research to advance girls’ leadership. These private sector supporters include: CauseCast, CGI America, Creative Commons, Discovery Communications, Dove, Goldman Sachs, Harvey Mudd College, Intel Corporation, Mary Kay Inc., OpenCourseWare Consortium, Piazza, and Rutgers University.
Expanding Support for Women Entrepreneurs
Investing in women entrepreneurs is an essential part of the President’s plan to create an economy built to last. Between 1997 and 2007, women-owned companies in the U.S grew at nearly twice the rate of all privately held U.S firms, adding roughly 500,000 jobs. Yet, many women entrepreneurs have difficulty accessing the tools, financing, and networks they need to start and grow their own businesses. The Administration is announcing new steps to further support women entrepreneurs, including:
- Expanding entrepreneurship training opportunities for women veterans, youth, and women aged 50+: In 2013, the Small Business Administration (SBA) intends to expand Operation Boots to Business to offer over 40,000 transitioning women service members the opportunity to access knowledge, tools, and resources needed to evaluate and succeed in entrepreneurship as they transition back into the civilian workforce. Additionally, Start Young – a partnership between SBA and the Department of Labor, will provide young adults with fundamental knowledge about small business opportunities and resources available to promote economic self-sufficiency – will expand the number of cities in which it operates in. Finally, the Encore Entrepreneurship partnership between the SBA and AARP will give women the tools to start new ventures in midlife and beyond through targeted training materials that take into account their different financial needs and opportunities.
- Promoting women in innovation: The Small Business Innovation and Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs at SBA represent approximately $2.5 billion in federal funding of R&D specifically targeted to small businesses. Following a convening of key stakeholders later this year, Federal agencies will set goals to meaningfully increase the participation of women-owned small businesses and women principal investigators in these programs.
* It is easy to see how all this aligns with WINS. The WINS community consists of innovative women of all ages across all disciplines and careers ready to create a better world. *
Additional Private Sector Commitments:
To advance the goals of the Equal Futures Partnership, we are collaborating with multilateral stakeholders and the private sector to help countries strengthen and implement their efforts. In addition to the non-governmental initiatives described above, new private sector efforts also include:
- Bringing together women and technology: Intel Corporation and a WINS’ sponsoring partner Ashoka are partnering to inspire entrepreneurship and promote solutions that equip girls and women around the globe with innovative technologies. This partnership includes Intel’s sponsorship of Ashoka fellows and a Changemakers competition focused on women and girls in technology.Intel Corporation is also partnering with the State Department to launch a new study focused on the gender and technology divide. The report is the first of its kind focused on assessing the gap in technology use, particularly the Internet, between women and men.
- Helping women entrepreneurs access new markets: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and WEConnect International are collaborating to ensure that successful women entrepreneurs are able to access new markets for sustained business growth. Over the coming year, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and WEConnect will collaborate in India to develop and implement an online access to markets training designed for graduates of the 10,000 Women program.
- Expanding Private Sector Efforts: The Clinton Global Initiative will work with CGI America participants to further the Equal Futures U.S domestic priority areas of entrepreneurship and STEM education through CGI’s Commitment to Action model.
This is part one of a two part series. As you can see, Women in Innovation is a movement at the cutting edge of major social reform in the world. Everyone in the WINS community has recognized this by participating and taking on Audacious Challenges. Let us hear what you are working on next!