Women need access to resources to spur economic growth

6 May 2015
ITC News

Only a handful of corporations with forward-looking policies thought about the value of social dimensions as part of the business equation as recently as 10 years ago. Now, an increasing number understand that it is not only good business practice to address these broad social dimensions when doing business. Consumers themselves are looking to support and invest in companies that think about their footprint around the world.

As a result, there has been growing recognition that doing business in a socially impactful way can uniquely contribute to – and greatly complement – the public sector’s development efforts around the world. Research by the International Center for Research on Women has shown repeatedly that access to resources, knowledge and skills are just a starting point for a woman to be able to advance economically and spur local economic growth. She must also be given the chance to act on economic opportunities with support from employers and the community.

As corporations and governments plan for the future and think through social impact and empowerment programmes, they must think more comprehensively about the many obstacles women must overcome in order to achieve full inclusion into economic systems.

One particular area in which we have seen business explore social impact is the increasing number of multinational corporations exploring how their policies and programmes can empower women as a core part of their business strategy.

Examples of these projects can be found around the world. In Asia, for instance, an innovative scheme in clothing factories is empowering female garment workers by giving them the necessary skills to advance in the workplace as well as financial literacy training to help them save money for their family’s future. This process is yielding promising results not just for the women and their families, but also for the company’s bottom line by helping factories retain and promote female workers.

Another programme trains factory workers, nurses, line supervisors and human resources staff to deliver information on hygiene, reproductive health, maternal health, family planning and domestic abuse to empower women working in global supply chains. Participating factories reported lower levels of absenteeism, reduced staff attrition and fewer mistakes made in manufactured garments.

Some large multinationals are striving to ensure that women have access to markets and are also working to ensure that female entrepreneurs are better embedded in local and global supply chains. Additional initiatives focus on improving women’s access to critical resources, such as small-business loans. While there may not be a one-sizefits- all approach for any company to help create economic growth by empowering women, we must continue to ensure policies and programs give women ample opportunity to move up in the global marketplace and do so in a measurable way.

Although a handful of multinationals have already made a promising start, we must change tactics over the next 15 years to ensure that we do not just focus on piecemeal solutions, such as ensuring women have access to jobs. We must also make sure we’re giving women and youth the full range of tools and skills while building their ability to move back and forth between the formal and informal sectors so that they can provide a more reliable flow of income for their families.