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5 positive signs that women are making slow and steady progress in the workforce here at home, and abroad.

Business as usual is no longer business as usual.  The market, the culture, and the priorities are all shifting, and part of the reason is the increasing presence of women in the workplace.  Even in regions that have historically excluded women outright from education and employment have shown surprising progress in incorporating women into labor. 

If you think about it, there is simply too much business incentive to ignore when it means that roughly 50% of your population could be contributing to the economy.  Countries and markets that want to stay relevant and competitive necessarily need to let women play a more active role. 

This good news is not to diminish the very real and dire conditions that women all over the world continue to contend with, but progress is afoot and it’s worth taking a closer look.

  1. South Korea elected its first female president.  Park Geun-hye was elected in 2013, and this has huge historic significance for a country that ranks 117th in the gender equality index1.  Despite the difficulties women face in entering professional jobs, there have been consistent efforts in South Korea to correct the disparities and enable women to enter college and seek business opportunities.
  2. The Gender Global Entrepreneurial Development Index was developed by Dell to illustrate to burgeoning economies how educating women can create the boost they need.  The message is that social values need to change so that women can access the same resources, and laws and institutions are taking a cold hard look at some of their practices2
  3. The European countries with the smallest gender gap are also the countries with the highest GDP.  It’s true!  Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden all rank the highest in the gender gap index, and they boast the strongest economies3.  Not an accident.  Check out the Gender Gap Index here: http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2014/rankings/.
  4. It’s getting easier for women in the U.S. to get business loans.  According to the authors of Rising Tide, a brilliant read for women looking to get financed, banks and credit unions are becoming more open to lending capital to female entrepreneurs4.  This book carefully examines case studies from all over the world on women in business: http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=20262.
  5. Turkey implements new policies to empower women in the workforce.  These policies include support for working parents, and promoting broader participation in higher education and the workforce for women.  Again, a country that has historically performed badly in basic women’s rights is actively seeking systemic and social change.

When you consider the obstacles that women in other countries encounter in living out their entrepreneurial dreams, it’s worth acknowledging that the U.S. is the best place in the world for women to own a business, trailed slightly by Australia2.  Economists conclude that women have a knack for seeing business opportunities, and in some cases, the harsher the living conditions are, the more urgent need for ingenuity. 

No matter where you are on the planet, there is a young woman dreaming of making an impact with her ideas.  Business leaders and policy makers need to actively facilitate that drive in order to generate lasting economic and social growth.  We do have a long way to go, but we are women, and we are clearly making big strides everyday. 

References:

  1. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/03/14/womens-inequality-south-korea-park/70165200/
  2. http://www.inc.com/kimberly-weisul/where-are-the-best-countries-for-women-entrepreneurs.html
  3. http://statisticstimes.com/economy/european-countries-by-gdp-per-capita.php
  4. http://www.nextavenue.org/8-great-sources-financing-women-starting-business/