The next emerging market: A billion women
You would never dream of not investing in India. You would never dream of not investing in China. So why wouldn’t you invest in women? That question was posed by Beth Brooke of Ernst & Young at the launch on Wednesday of a campaign called The Third Billion that aims to empower women as a means to drive economic growth. The campaign is based on the notion that there are a billion women not participating in the global economy who should be.
“Every country, every company in the world is looking for growth wherever they can find it,” Brooke said at a panel discussion (which I moderated) at Thomson Reuters headquarters in New York. “Where is the growth coming from? It’s coming from the emerging markets … We historically think of those emerging markets as India and China and many others. But it is clear that women are an emerging market.”
DeAnne Aguirre, senior vice-president at Booz & Company, said the concept of the “Third Billion” comes from the notion that if China and India each represent 1 billion emerging participants in the global marketplace, then a third billion is made up of women around the world whose economic lives have been “stunted, underleveraged or suppressed.”
The figure is based on a Booz & Company analysis of International Labor Organization data on women in the global workforce that showed some 860 million women were excluded for one reason or another, a number forecast to rise to 1 billion in the next decade. (Many of those women are in India and China, of course, so there is overlap with the first and second billions.)
La Pietra Coalition, the global alliance behind the campaign, has identified five factors that contribute to keeping women from playing a more productive role: access to finance; legal and social status; barriers to entrepreneurship; lack of education and training; and labor policy and practice.
The group wants to bring together corporations, governments, NGOs and institutions such as the World Bank to address each of those issues.
Among those that have already partnered with La Pietra are Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered Bank. Brooke, who is global vice-chair for public policy at Ernst & Young, said a key goal of the campaign is to enlist more big companies.
“It is good for their business,” she told Reuters. “They have women as consumers. They have women as employees. Their supply chains could be filled with women entrepreneurs.”
“The point of “The Third Billion” is that they will have so much more of all of that in the next decade — if they invest wisely,” she said. “The investment will add to their bottom line.”
For an audit and consulting firm like Ernst & Young, there’s a real possibility of payback. As Brooke says: “The entrepreneurs of today are our biggest and best clients of tomorrow.”