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Center for International Private Enterprise

ECONOMICREFORM Feature Service® July 31, 2011

Trends in Women’s Empowerment: Leadership through Participation and Entrepreneurship An interview with Henrietta Holsman Fore Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Holsman International

Article at a glance • Women’s equal participation in political, economic, and civic life of their countries is essential for empowerment. • Access to education, decision-making, and technology allows women to represent their interests and realize their aspirations. • Women’s increasing participation in the private sector and entrepreneurial ventures helps them gain opportunities in the economic sphere.

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Trends in Women’s Empowerment: Leadership through Participation and Entrepreneurship

Center for International Private Enterprise

CIPE: Some of the key aspects of women’s empowerment — political, economic, and civic — are fundamentally linked. How do you view these connections and why are they important?

activities in their countries. Decision-making power that comes from having greater education and economic resources is important for women and their empowerment.

Henrietta Holsman Fore (HHF): The connections between different areas of women’s empowerment are complex and unique to every society where they have been evolving throughout history. It is important for women to have access to democratic processes, such as voting, but what women do with that access is also important. Empowerment comes from full participation beyond voting, which means inclusion in all political, economic, and civic activities.

CIPE: Many programs meant to empower women focus on helping individuals face challenges that they encounter in their daily lives. Though important in their own rights, such efforts overlook the underlying institutional barriers, such as weak property rights, to women’s participation in political, economic, and social spheres. How can those barriers be removed?

Equal economic participation is also fundamental to empowerment. It is not enough for men and women to have equal access to the same career opportunities — they must also have equality of pay, responsibilities, roles, and respect in organizations, be they in government, the private sector, or civil society groups. Men and women’s equal partnership at all levels is essential to women’s empowerment. CIPE: In your former role as the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development and director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, you were responsible for overseeing diverse programs in countries around the world. What are some of the most effective development investments when it comes to empowering women? HHF: I would begin with investing in legal rights related to economic activities, such as land tenuring rights and the rights to own property. When a woman becomes a woman of property, she becomes a person of respect within her community and she carries a voice. I also think it is essential for women to have access to capital so that they can go into a bank and make their own decisions to save or borrow. Education and vocational training programs are also smart investments. With skills and knowledge women can participate in a wider variety of

HHF: Education is an excellent tool for breaking down barriers. If a girl has a chance to go to school and if she can stay in school, she has a chance to direct her own path in life. The degree to which women can make choices in various spheres of life matters tremendously. If women can vote, they can choose political leadership that will advocate in their interests. If women have a chance to choose the area of their studies, they will be able to work in a field they are passionate about and gain economic empowerment. If women have the ability to choose their own husband, they will have a greater say in their lifestyle. Making such independent choices is an empowering mechanism for women. Finally, a strong economic base is essential. Broad-based economic growth across societies is important because more women can reach their potential if there are economic opportunities and rights for all citizens in a country. CIPE: You have promoted the idea that that the private sector holds the key to development. What do you mean by that, and why is it important for women? HHF: There are many businesses that are interested in reaching out to women. That benefits both those women and the businesses themselves. For example, Cisco is training women in their IT systems. It is in their business interest to do this training, because as Cisco grows in emerging – 2– –


Trends in Women’s Empowerment: Leadership through Participation and Entrepreneurship

Center for International Private Enterprise

markets it needs more trained employees, both men and women.

they have skills. Women must also share that confidence with other women. Too often women lose confidence in themselves or their ability to change the world. If women can maintain and spread that confidence, we will see more women leaders.

Coca-Cola is also looking for women as distributors and sellers of their products. They have training and financing programs that ultimately drive their business in economies around the world. These training sessions are opportunities for women to become involved in private sector activities.

CIPE: What do you see as the new opportunities for development in the coming decades that are of particular significance for women?

It is crucial for women to understand money, finance, and how a business works, whether it is a farm or shop that generates their family’s income. Business can be a great equalizer between men and women. Even if a woman does not have the same education or status as the men in her community, she may be very successful in opening and operating a business.

HHF: Technology has been a great empowering mechanism for women. Cell phones have become the computers of the developing world; radio programs can educate students and teachers alike about democracy and the structure of government within their country. There are so many technologies that change the world. I think they will continue to build opportunities for women.

CIPE: Studies show that investing in girls and women brings a multiplier effect to entire societies in the form of greater transparency in public life as well as economic growth and development. Do you see such positive results of empowering women leaders in your work? How can they be scaled up?

A second trend that is very powerful is the rise of entrepreneurs. You see it especially within Africa and Asia — the high growth continents. Sometimes a woman becomes an entrepreneur because she does not have a job in an established business and must create an alternate livelihood. Sometimes it is because a woman must balance work with looking after children at home. Sometimes it is because she has an entrepreneurial spirit. There are many ways that one can come to the realm of entrepreneurship. Training and finance for entrepreneurs is coming to almost every country and city, so women can take advantage of this trend.

HHF: Having strong role models is one key to empowering more women. The first woman president in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is a magnificent role model and she has helped many women in Liberia and beyond aspire to positions of leadership. In that context, it is important to consider what leadership means and how more women can become leaders in their countries and communities.

Increasing the number of women on corporate boards is another movement with enormous momentum. Legislation in a number of countries — France, Israel, and the Scandinavian countries — has moved companies towards thinking about the importance of having a diversity of experience and thought on their boards. Not only do women improve corporate governance but consumers are often women and thus corporate boards can benefit from women’s perspective.

Education matters. When I was in Uganda, I visited Gulu, the country’s historic major regional center for higher education. The university was created in part because there was a strong demand for women’s education in Uganda. The community decided that an institution of higher education would be a way to foster more women leaders. In the end, though, leadership is individual and it comes from within. It is important for women to have faith in themselves and to be very thoughtful about how to take advantage of the areas in which

Finally, today is a time of great change in the world, which opens up more opportunities for women. As you look at Africa and its increasing –3–


Trends in Women’s Empowerment: Leadership through Participation and Entrepreneurship

Center for International Private Enterprise

growth, the turmoil in the Middle East, and the rise of Asia, the changing balances of power in those places present an opportunity for women’s voices to be heard. Women have changed conversations whenever they speak out and speak up. That is a trend that must continue into the future as women lead democracies that deliver. _____________________________________________________________________________

Henrietta Holsman Fore is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Holsman International, an investment and management company. She is also a Co-Chair of the Asia Society. From 2007 to 2009, Ms. Fore served as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Director of United States Foreign Assistance, holding the equivalent rank as Deputy Secretary of State. Ms. Fore was the first woman to serve in these roles. In addition, Ms. Fore provides advisory services to several international corporations, including the Coca-Cola Company. She is a frequent speaker at international forums on corporate governance, international trends, markets, green technology, finance, foreign policy and public-private partnerships, including topics from food and water, to women and education. The views expressed by the author are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). CIPE grants permission to reprint, translate, and/or publish original articles from its Economic Reform Feature Service provided that (1) proper attribution is given to the original author and to CIPE and (2) CIPE is notified where the article is placed and a copy is provided to CIPE’s Washington office.

The Economic Reform Feature Service is CIPE’s online and electronic article distribution service. It provides in-depth articles designed for a network of policymakers, business leaders, civic reformers, scholars, and others interested in the issues relating to economic reform and its connection to democratic development. Articles are e-mailed and posted online twice a month. If you would like to subscribe free of charge, please join the CIPE network by entering your e-mail at www.cipe.org. CIPE welcomes articles submitted by readers. Most articles run between 3-7 pages (1,0003,000 words). All submissions relevant to CIPE’s mission will be considered based on merit. The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) strengthens democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform. CIPE is one of the four core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy and an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Since 1983, CIPE has worked with business leaders, policymakers, and journalists to build the civic institutions vital to a democratic society. CIPE’s key program areas include anti-corruption, advocacy, business associations, corporate governance, democratic governance, access to information, the informal sector and property rights, and women and youth.

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Trends in Women’s Empowerment: Leadership through Participation and Entrepreneurship