7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

The smart investment - empowering women in the economy

The smart investment - empowering women in the economy

The transformational impact of working with the private sector to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment

EDD17 - Replay - The smart investment - empowering women in the economy

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 18:00 to 19:30

Key points

  • The economic potential of increased female participation in the workforce is enormous. African women alone drive the new growth in their countries.
  • Progress on gender equality is crucial for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending hunger. An end to hunger would improve gender equality.
  • Business management skills are essential for women’s financial inclusion in developing economies.
  • The political empowerment of women cannot be separated from economic empowerment.


Women’s participation in the economy provides for stronger and more inclusive growth. Studies show that achieving gender equality in the workplace could add enormously to the world economy, and could produce an added value of between US$12 trillion and US$28 trillion to the world’s total gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to that of the two biggest economic powers – China and the United States – combined.

The social benefit of women’s economic participation is enormous; women return as much as 80 % of their income to their local community. When women have their own earnings in a developing country, the family spending pattern is different, as they tend to pay for food, healthcare and their children’s education. If extreme poverty is to be eradicated by 2030, promoting women’s participation in the economy is hugely important.

However, social norms and traditions can hamper women’s economic role and represent a strong resistance to change. Gender equality in the workplace is unlikely to be achieved as long as men do not take on a bigger share of domestic responsibility.

The European Commission has increased its funding to foster women’s economic empowerment and gender equality through a range of new initiatives. But panelists pointed out that policy needs to focus more on tackling violence towards women. The UN is a key partner on this issue through its global gender initiative on across-the-board abuse of women and girls. The UN Women’s Directorate is developing a substantial public-private partnership to help achieve gender equality as part of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Cost estimates for the needed action are enormous, but it is recognised that efforts on women’s empowerment are crucial to almost every one of the goals.

Progress on gender equality is just as important for ending hunger. According to the UN’s World Food Programme, food aid and cash assistance should be provided directly to women to ensure better nutrition for their children. Women have a crucial role in farming, but their work is often unpaid and undervalued. Hunger would be sharply reduced if women had access to the same resources as men so they could contribute to better food production and sell their output.

Female entrepreneurship is extremely important in African countries, where despite all the obstacles they face in obtaining finance and loans, women account for a substantial proportion of CEOs and of growth through the scaling-up of businesses.

Through private foundations and training initiatives, an entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports women is evolving throughout the continent. Women have set up businesses in sectors as varied as car mechanics, fashion and agriculture. Both peer networks and greater financial knowhow are important. However, women still suffer from a lack of economic power for lack of political influence. Greater parliamentary representation for women always translates into a bigger share of the labour force.


According to the UN, action to support women’s economic empowerment can paradoxically act as a trigger for abuse. Therefore, awareness raising campaigns must send a clear signal to men that women’s increased participation in the labour force is positive for everybody.

Organised by

    Arancha Gonzalez
    Executive Director
    International Trade Centre
    Parminder Vir
    The Tony Elumelu Foundation
    Claudine Mensah Awute
    Country Director in Bénin/Togo
    CARE International
    Yannick Glemarec
    Deputy Executive Director
    Chawapiwa Masole
    EDD Young Leader, Botswana
    Valerie Guarnieri
    WFP Regional Director for East and Central Africa
    UN World Food Programme
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