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At the IDB, we believe that together we can go farther. Our partnership network is making positive differences in Latin America and the Caribbean every day, and this blog is our channel for telling that story. Stay tuned for literature on partnership perspectives, stories from the field, changing trends, outlooks for development and the region, information on ways and opportunities to partner, and more. Thanks for stopping by.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inter-American Development Bank, its Management, its Board of Executive Directors or its member Governments.

Engines for Economic Growth: the Missing Piece

By - May 7 2015

Money puzzle pieces
What’s the missing ingredient in global efforts to spur economic growth? This ingredient is both enormously potent and prevalent, likely sitting before you on the bus, working beside you at the office, or awaiting your Mother’s Day call as the May commemoration comes around. What are we referring to? Women, of course, who despite their dominant roles in households, schools, communities, governments, and companies the globe over remain the biggest untapped force for economic growth in the world today. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, remarked at the 2013 World Economic Forum that “the evidence is clear, as is the message: when women do better, economies do better.” To make this case, and to encourage a movement that empowers women as the drivers of prosperity that they are, we want to share some of this evidence with you today.

  • Globally, two-thirds of women identify as primary financial decision makers and more than 60 percent as the primary source of household assets. Yet they are 17 percent less likely than men to have a bank account.
  • Women-led small and medium enterprises (SMEs) default on payments 54 percent less often than those run by men. Yet in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), they face a credit gap of $86 billion, and only 1 in 5 have their working capital needs financed by banks.
  • The annual total of women’s global earnings comes to a whopping $18 trillion, and in LAC alone the growth of women’s incomes triggered a 30 percent reduction in extreme poverty between 2000 and 2010. Yet they are continuously overlooked and under-empowered as the force for economic growth they have the potential to be.

It is knowledge of this evidence—of these realities—and a commitment to promoting them that brought the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to team up with the Next Billion Conference, a Vancouver event held this very week to inaugurate an innovative new initiative—the Next Billion. Meant to unite senior corporate leaders around a global effort to empower women as vital players in economic growth, the one-day event discussed their unharnessed potential as employees, executives, investors and consumers.

“There’s coverage in the press nearly every day about why it’s critical for women to become a stronger part of the economic wheel,” says Lisa Wolverton, conference organizer, business owner and philanthropist. “We’re addressing the how, which is the market opportunity in diversity, whether that entails supply chain, the C-suite and/or entrepreneurs. Corporate leaders from around the world will share ideas, experiences, challenges, successes and failures of diversifying their businesses. IDB understands the market opportunity of women and is investing accordingly, and we’re excited to have the IDB’s Alexandre Meira da Rosa among our speakers. His international economic and government experience will bring a one-of-a-kind perspective to the discussion.”

Well in line with IDB efforts to integrate gender components into all of its multi-sectorial work, the Next Billion movement encourages both societies and companies to better incorporate women economically as a means for remaining competitive and achieving further growth. We are working hard to make this possible, supporting the role of women in the banking sector, uplifting them as entrepreneurs, integrating them into inclusive distribution networks, and fostering overall gender equality in the region. What we need to truly succeed is back-up, support in the form of financing, knowledge, and ideas from likeminded partner institutions who share our commitment to empowering women as drivers of the future economy. We are already making progress in this quest for a more prosperous, more equitable Latin American and Caribbean region. If you want to come along for the ride, join us.

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