Live from the UN: Private sector engagement in women's empowerment

The private sector can best empower women globally and help tackle key development goals especially as they relate to women through key partnerships, greater collection and sharing of data and increased access to and use of technology.

These key themes and others were the focus of the Tuesday’s sessions at the International Women’s Day Forum hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Corporate Citizenship Center and the United Nations Office of Partnerships.

More than 50 speakers, including Chelsea Clinton, Melanne Verveer, U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, joined top corporate leaders from Coca-Cola, Intel and Gap to discuss the role of business in women’s empowerment. Devex Impact will be publishing a series of interviews with many of those leaders in the coming weeks.

While the event focused on relationship-building and information exchange, here are a few of the announcements made:

  • H&M shared that it is joining Business Call to Action, which challenges companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. As part of its commitment with BCtA, the Swedish fashion retail giant will invest in skills training for about 5,000 people in the garment industry in Bangladesh by 2016. H&M will partner with the International Labor Organization and the Swedish International Development Agency to create a Skill Development Center of Excellence aimed at improving vocational training and provide certificates that could increase productivity and employability of the local workers, most of whom are women.   

  • Jane Nelson, director of the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, announced that she will partner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Civic Leadership Center on a series of roundtables, case studies and reports that examine key issues corporations face in working on development issues related to women.

  • The Civic Leadership Center also released some key findings from a recent study on empowering women entrepreneurs in Mexico. The study found that the demand from large international companies looking to buy goods from women manufacturers outstrips the supply. Instead to trying to build the capacity of female manufacturers, a better first step may be to focus on business-to-business relationships in connecting women entrepreneurs, especially in the service sector, to other Mexican companies, which may eventually create a path to bigger supply chains. The research also determined that women seem to invest less in their enterprises than men, largely due to their greater investments in their families, and recommended culturally-relevant training about how to best split profits and ensure business growth. Lastly the study found a key gap in financing between the $2,000 cap on microfinance loans and the $10,000 minimum for small business loans — which creates significant challenges as women try to grow their businesses.

Check out the above video for Devex Impact reporter Adva Saldinger’s video report from New York.

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About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.