Global Policy Forum

Companies With More Females At The Top

World Bank
June 24, 2004

Companies With More Females At The Top Perform Much Better. In a piece on gender and successful business concepts, The Financial Times writes that women are more responsible than men when it comes to repayments in micro-finance schemes.

In Africa, for example, the Kenya Women's Micro-Finance Trust has a 97 percent payback rate, while a similar scheme in Jordan has a payback rate of 99.2 percent, according to Amanda Ellis, private sector gender development specialist for the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. In industrialized countries women's success in business has also been demonstrated. Such evidence is one of the reasons high hopes are pinned on the power of women to alleviate poverty in developing nations. "And World Bank research supports the 'good mother' hypothesis," says Ellis. "A number of studies show that an additional income for women in developing countries tends to be spent on family nutrition and things like girls' education."

Not only can women be successful entrepreneurs, supporting their family. They can also become employers. In China, for example, where free market commerce was legalized as recently as 1988, women own a third of all small and medium-sized businesses and more than one in five women-owned businesses employ more than 1,000 workers, according to the All China Women's Federation. Given such evidence, women might seem an obvious target for commercial banks. However, structural and legal barriers often prevent women from gaining access to finance through mainstream institutions. In some cases it remains difficult for a woman to work, let alone start a business. Economists Stephan Klasen and Francesca Lamanna have estimated that gender inequality in access to the labor market in the Middle East and north Africa has resulted in gross domestic product loss of about $426 billion in the past decade. "It's a matter of thinking through the macro-economic linkages in a logical way so governments can see how gender inequity can impede economic growth," says Ellis. "So what we're trying to do is get these issues on policy makers' agendas."

The Jordan Times meanwhile notes Arab businesswomen explored their chances for success in the business world and the challenges they face in the new age of technology during an all-woman regional conference on marketing and investment held in Amman on Tuesday. According to organizers, the conference, held under the banner of "The Current Status of Investment and Marketing for the Arab Business Women in the Age of Technology," is meant to identify the real challenges behind the low women participation in business, pinpoint the best practices in marketing and investment and come out with realistic recommendations to overcome difficulties.

Voice of America quotes senior education adviser at the World Bank, Birger Fredriksen, as saying that educating girls and women is not only morally right, but economically necessary. "Both of these things, girls in schools and literacy programs for women, are not luxuries," he said. "If we are not going to be able to do that, we are not going to be able to reach our development goals." He said Kenya's introduction of free primary education last year, which boosted school enrollment by 20 percent, was a good example of Africa's progress, but added more needs to be done to make education accessible to all children, regardless of gender.

Le Soleil (Senegal) meanwhile reports that a workshop on best practice in the education of girls opened yesterday in Nairobi (Kenya) in the framework of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE).

The 150 participants will define what best practice is, and discuss the necessity to implement it on a broader scale. The participants are experts on education from 27 Sub-Saharan African countries and representatives from international organizations, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank, UNESCO, as well as NGOs.




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