Reshaping Development to Empower Women Leaders and Entrepreneurs Globally

Women’s pivotal role in fostering innovation, driving economic growth, and creating jobs in emerging markets cannot be underestimated. Research underscores the strong correlation between women in leadership positions and several positive outcomes, including improved financial performance, adoption of family-friendly policies, robust environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices, and equitable hiring and promotion policies.

However, despite the undeniable business case for gender diversity and the immense investment potential, the economic prowess of female entrepreneurs and industry leaders remains largely untapped. While the traditional image of women leadership often centres on CEOs of major global companies, it is crucial to broaden our perspective.

Women leaders exist in various forms, including those who lead local initiatives and grassroots movements. Additionally, as we navigate the rapid changes in technology and industry, there is an urgent need to upskill women to ensure they are not left behind. In this article, we explore the importance of broadening the definition of women leadership and the necessity of upskilling women in the face of technological advancements.

A significant barrier to realizing this potential is the glaring disparity in access to financial resources between men and women. In emerging markets, women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face a staggering financing gap , estimated at around $1.5 trillion.

Empowering Women as Entrepreneurs and Leaders | WBG-IMF 2023 Spring Meetings
  • According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report, there is a gender gap in entrepreneurial activity in many countries. In 2020, the gender gap in early-stage entrepreneurial activity was 13.2% globally.
  • The World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law report found that 90% of 190 economies have at least one legal barrier impeding women’s economic opportunities.
  • A report by Catalyst revealed that as of 2020, women held just 6.6% of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies.

Broadening the Definition of Female Leadership

  • Recognizing Local Initiatives: Leadership is not confined to the boardrooms of multinational corporations. Women who lead local initiatives, community projects, non-profits, and grassroots movements play a vital role in effecting change at the grassroots level. Their leadership often brings about positive social, environmental, and economic impacts that resonate on a global scale.
  • Diversity of Perspectives: Expanding the definition of women leadership to include local leaders fosters a diversity of perspectives. These leaders are often deeply connected to their communities and understand the unique challenges and opportunities they face. Their insights can lead to innovative solutions and policies that address local and global issues more effectively.
  • Inclusivity: Recognizing leadership at all levels encourages inclusivity and diversity. It sends a message that leadership is not exclusive to a select few but can be achieved by anyone, regardless of their background or the scale of their work. This inclusivity can inspire more women to step into leadership roles.
  • Sustainable Change: Local leaders are often at the forefront of sustainable and community-driven change. Their efforts in areas such as education, healthcare, and environmental conservation can have a lasting impact on their communities and contribute to global sustainability goals.
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The Need for Upskilling Women Amid Rapid Technological Change

  • Closing the Gender Gap: The gender gap in technology-related fields remains a significant concern. To ensure gender equality in these industries, it is imperative to upskill women and provide them with equal opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers.
  • Economic Empowerment: Technological advancements are reshaping the job market, and digital skills are increasingly in demand. By upskilling women, we empower them to access high-paying jobs and economic independence, reducing the gender pay gap.
  • Innovation and Problem-Solving: Women bring unique perspectives to technology and innovation. By upskilling women in technology and leadership, we foster innovation and problem-solving in areas that may have been traditionally overlooked.
  • Future-Proofing Careers: As automation and artificial intelligence continue to advance, reskilling and upskilling are essential for individuals to stay relevant in the job market. Providing women with the necessary skills ensures they remain competitive and adaptable in a changing work landscape.

Broadening the definition of women leadership to include leaders of local initiatives and grassroots movements acknowledges the diverse and impactful ways women contribute to society. It promotes inclusivity and encourages women from all walks of life to aspire to leadership roles. Additionally, upskilling women in technology and leadership is essential for their economic empowerment, closing gender gaps, fostering innovation, and future-proofing their careers. By recognizing and investing in women’s leadership at all levels and equipping them with the skills needed for success, we can create a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

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Increasing the Number of Women in Leadership Positions is a Necessity

Supporting women entrepreneurs globally is not just a matter of equity; it is an imperative for economic growth and societal development. Women entrepreneurs have the potential to drive innovation, create jobs, and contribute significantly to the global economy. However, they continue to face numerous challenges that hinder their progress, from legal hurdles to lack of childcare infrastructure, entrenched societal norms, barriers to accessing finance, and discriminatory employer policies. In this article, we will explore why increasing the number of women in leadership positions and supporting women entrepreneurs in launching and expanding their businesses is a necessity.

  • Diversity and Innovation: Research consistently shows that diverse teams, including those with gender diversity, are more innovative and better at problem-solving. Having women in leadership positions brings different perspectives and ideas to the table, leading to more creative solutions and products.
  • Economic Growth: Women in leadership positions can drive economic growth. Studies have demonstrated a correlation between gender diversity in leadership and higher profitability for businesses. A McKinsey report found that companies with more women in leadership positions are 21% more likely to outperform their counterparts in terms of profitability.
  • Representation Matters: When women hold leadership positions, it sends a powerful message to younger generations. It encourages girls to aspire to leadership roles and challenges traditional gender roles. Representation matters, as it can break down stereotypes and biases.
  • Improved Decision-Making: Women leaders tend to exhibit collaborative and inclusive leadership styles. They are more likely to consider a broad range of opinions and perspectives, leading to better decision-making and outcomes.

Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in Launching and Expanding Their Businesses

  • Access to Finance: One of the significant barriers women entrepreneurs face is limited access to finance. According to the World Bank, 70% of women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries are either unserved or underserved by financial institutions. Initiatives like microloans, venture capital funds dedicated to women-led startups, and financial literacy programs can help bridge this gap.
  • Legal Reforms: Many countries still have legal barriers that discriminate against women entrepreneurs, such as restrictions on property ownership and inheritance. Advocating for legal reforms that promote gender equality in entrepreneurship is crucial.
  • Childcare Infrastructure: Lack of affordable and accessible childcare is a major obstacle for women entrepreneurs. Developing robust childcare infrastructure can allow women to balance their business responsibilities with family commitments.
  • Mentorship and Networking: Mentorship programs and networking opportunities specifically designed for women entrepreneurs can provide valuable guidance, support, and connections in the business world.
  • Education and Training: Offering training and education programs tailored to the needs of women entrepreneurs can equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary for success.

Recognising women entrepreneurs globally is not just a moral imperative; it’s an economic and social necessity. Increasing the number of women in leadership positions and supporting women entrepreneurs in overcoming barriers will lead to more diverse and innovative businesses, stronger economies, and a more equitable world. To achieve this, concerted efforts from governments, businesses, and civil society are required to create an environment where women can thrive as entrepreneurs and leaders.

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Dr Marina Nani
Dr Marina Nani


Dr Nani is the Founder of Sovereign Magazine. She is also Editor-in-Chief of Sovereign's sister publication, Rich Woman Magazine. Passionately advocating for Social Edification, Dr Marina Nani is coining a new industry, MAKE THE NEWS ( MTN) with the aim to diagnose and close the achievement gap globally. Founder of RICH WOMAN SOCIETY™ Marina believes that there is a genius ( Stardust) in each individual, regardless past and present circumstances; "not recognising the talent in each individual, leaves our society at loss. Sharing the good news makes a significant difference on your perception about yourself, your industry and your community."