Many thanks, Mr. Koichi Takemasa, Sr. Vice Minister Ministry of Finance, for the kind introduction.
Dear Excellency, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and, yes, Gentlemen – it’s good to see so many men here as well…
It is an honor to be here with a room full of partners, colleagues and friends committed to promoting women’s participation in the private sector – and with rich experience in doing so!
It’s a particular honor to have Her Excellency, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, joining us. She is of course the first elected female head of state in Africa. And it’s a rare privilege to have a President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate - all in one.
You may not be aware of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s private sector experience. She served as Vice President of the African Regional Office of Citibank in the early 1980s and later went on to work for the Equator Bank, a subsidiary of HSBC. She also established a venture capital vehicle for entrepreneurs in Africa.
So she is ideally placed to speak today about women’s entrepreneurship, both from a business and a development perspective.
As the World Bank’s 2012 flagship World Development Report demonstrated gender equality matters for development. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do, because gender equality is smart economics. Women’s economic empowerment is critical for economic growth.
Under-investing in women not only limits economic and social development, but it puts a brake on poverty reduction.
Seeds and fertilizer in the hands of a woman can boost agricultural productivity; cash in the hands of a woman can increase twentyfold the chance of her child’s survival; a business in the hands of a woman can thrive. In the USA today women owned firms are growing at twice the rate of all other firms. Contributing nearly $3 trillion to the US economy and are directly responsible for 23 million jobs.
This year, the World Bank’s World Development Report focuses on jobs – and there is a clear link between gender equality, jobs and growth.
Yet the fact remains that there are many more women than men in non-wage work in low- and lower-middle income countries.
Women make up nearly 50 percent of the world's population but only 40.8 percent of the formal global labor market.
So there is vast untapped economic and productive potential in too many countries. Why are participation rates so low and opportunities so few?
Worldwide, education levels of women have increased. But still there’s a wide gender gap in the workforce. It is barriers like legislation, cultural restrictions, informal work, and limited access to finance which are holding women back. Our Report on Women Business and the Law surveyed 141 economies to look at the barriers that exist to gender equality, In 102 out of those 141 economies, there is at least one legal difference that can hinder women’s economic opportunities. 102 out of 141 countries. That’s a pretty large indictment.
Now more than ever – with the global economy volatile and uncertain – the world can ill-afford to overlook the benefits of full and productive employment for women.
We all lose out when our global capacity for productive potential remains untapped. Nearly half (48.4 percent) of the available productive potential of females is under or unutilized, compared to 22.3 percent for men (Source ILO 2010).
Strengthening women’s participation in the formal labor force harnesses this untapped potential for advancing development.
Full and productive employment for women not only empowers them but also opens up more business opportunities for the private sector, stronger communities for society, and greater sustainable economic growth for countries.
We are very fortunate to have with us Margaret Biggs, President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) who will bring to this discussion CIDA’s experience of promoting women’s entrepreneurship through their engagement with governments and the private sector.
Today women are the new emerging market.
There’s no doubt: the financial power of women is expanding at a faster rate than at any other time in history, with much of this growth centered in emerging markets.
Global consumer spending by women is projected at $28 trillion in 2014, up from $20 trillion in 2009.
The growth and success of women-owned businesses is one of the most profound changes in the business world today.
But many businesswomen are not able to access commercial credit, an essential driver of business success.
Lack of access to finance is repeatedly identified as the major constraint for women entrepreneurs. On average only 5-10% of women-owned entities have access to commercial bank loans, and women owned businesses account for only 3% of venture capital investments globally.
This is not just a developing country issue. I know of women in the developed world – in countries like France – who say 30 years ago they could not take out a loan for a house.
We have come a long way and are in position today where the Global Banking Alliance for Women brings together financial institutions from developed and developing countries to learn from each other what works best.
But too many banks remain oblivious to the opportunity of women in business.
We estimate that women-owned businesses in emerging markets have unmet financial needs close to $300 billion every year.
That’s a staggering sum when you consider the potential– both economic and social – offered by women in business.
IFC continues to work with financial institutions to raise their awareness, so they realize the opportunity and viability of banking on women.
In fact, embracing the development and business case, IFC has a clear goal - to ensure that in the coming years 25 percent of IFC loans provided to small and medium sized enterprises through financial intermediaries go to women-owned businesses. And once we reach that target, we need to go further.
And so we are particularly glad to have with us Larke Riemer of Westpac Banking Corporation, Australia, (also former Chair of the Global Banking Alliance for Women) who will tell us more about their successes of reaching women entrepreneurs.
Before Su-Mei Thompson of The Women’s Foundation moderates what promises to be an exciting panel discussion, let me turn it to our most distinguished key note speaker, Her Excellency, the President of the Republic of Liberia.