This Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, we want to celebrate and recognize the world’s female business leaders. We want to celebrate great chairwomen, as much as the more anonymous owners of traditional local stores in neighborhoods across Asia. These women play pivotal roles in the journey towards achieving socio-economic gender parity, building on the foundations of women past, to secure a brighter future for themselves, their communities and the women that come after them.
Despite their diligence, a long road to achieving socio-economic gender parity lies ahead. It is startling that women make up around half of the world’s population, work the equivalent of two-thirds of the world’s working hours, yet earn only one-tenth of the world’s income. Perhaps such dismal figures pose a clue as to why business ownership continues to be one of the weakest links in women’s advancement.
MasterCard’s latest research on women’s advancement indicates that more women across the Asia Pacific region are gaining the knowledge, skills and capabilities required to actively participate in politics or the corporate sector and become business owners. In New Zealand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand, women were on par or better represented at tertiary institutions than their male counterparts.
However, the Index also reveals that business ownership by women remains low across the region. With the exception of Australia, there are less than 50 female business owners for every 100 male business owners.
Yet, in spite of this large gap, the Asia Pacific region still has much to be optimistic about. Over the last nine years, women in some of the region’s most underserved corners, Bangladesh, India and the Philippines, have made large strides in tertiary enrolment, and regular employment. And as they work, MasterCard does too alongside them, to provide the resources and training necessary to help bridge the professional equality gap for women.
In Asia Pacific, we partner organizations such as the Singapore Committee for UN Women, Literacy India, Junior Achievement, Mercy Corps and Buro Bangladesh to equip women with skills that can empower them to start their own business.
These are just some of the organizations we work with as part of our efforts to help ease the journey towards socio-economic gender parity. In the region, our initiatives have impacted more than 200,000 women and girls who have boldly taken the first step towards creating a better future for themselves, their families and communities. By 2020 we hope to reach more than 400,000.
The question for us now is how we build on recent progress. From small business owners to millennial entrepreneurs, we need to ensure that women have the knowledge, the confidence and the resources to sustain and scale their enterprises.