Sport plays a vital role in laying the foundation for developing women's capabilities.
Today, women account for less than 10% of the 1,011 billionaires in the world, but of the 14 female billionaires whose wealth is self-made, half are from China.
The female representation of millionaires is even higher. There are many reasons for the success of female entrepreneurs in China, but chief among these are:
- A hospitable social and economic environment that encourages women to get an education and start their own companies
- Business acumen and managerial skills obtained by holding high posts at large state-owned enterprises or in the private sector
- Relationships and connections established through professional experience that enable women to raise the necessary funds to start their businesses
- The market regulations of a developing economy, which afford more flexibility
By contrast, in the US, although 46% of privately held firms are now at least half-owned by women (representing almost 16 million jobs), these businesses often have difficulty scaling up. Enterprises owned by men are 3.5 times as likely to reach US$1 million in annual revenues as businesses owned by women.
This is due to multiple factors:
- Difficulty in gaining access to financing
- Lack of business networks
- Lower self-confidence
- Greater family commitments
Similarly, in rapid-growth markets, small and medium-sized enterprises between 31% and 38% have full or partial female ownership. Yet these firms are highly restricted in their growth, accounting for 32% to 39% of very small firms and 7% to 21% of medium-sized companies.
Barriers to expansion include lack of access to finance and non-financial obstacles such as an unfavorable legal environment and inadequate education or training.
Removing these barriers will allow organizations of all kinds to benefit from one of the most underutilized sources of talent. No one can shatter the glass ceiling overnight. Political and business leaders can take action to harness women's talents and skills to propel the global economy.
Sport plays a vital role in laying the foundation for developing women's capabilities. A United Nations report points out that "the participation of women and girls in sport challenges gender stereotypes and discrimination, and can therefore be a vehicle to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In particular, women in sport leadership can shape attitudes towards women's capabilities as leaders and decision-makers, especially in traditional male domains."
One organization that has taken this to heart is Standard Chartered Bank, which, in partnership with global development charities, created its Goal program in 2006 to empower adolescent girls through sports training and life skills education. Goal currently runs in China, India, Jordan, Nigeria and Zambia and aims to influence the lives of 100,000 young women by 2013.
There are many other ways to effect change by working with private and public sector leaders. Programs to help both women and men advance more equitably in the workplace include paid leave policies, flexible working hours and non-traditional career paths.
Some governments have instituted quotas to increase women's participation in leadership positions. Others have generous paternity and maternity leave policies. Private-sector organizations are increasingly offering flexibility and a variety of other options to enable both men and women to achieve professional growth.
Ultimately, what it will take to bring about lasting change is commitment from the top — a visible and measurable effort by global business and political leaders to empower women for the advancement of society.
Closing the gender gap
- 78% of all bachelor's degrees in the US are earned by women
- 25% - The return on equity for a diverse corporate board, compared to only 9% for a uniform board
- 75% of discretionary spending worldwide will be controlled by women by the year 2028
- 17% - The average gap in earnings between men and women worldwide
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