SACRAMENTO, California — The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018 is a bill that aims to provide a more inclusive entry of women into the formal economy through advocating for private property rights and land tenure for women in the workplace. H.R. 5480 was introduced on April 12, 2018, by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. The act passed on July 17, 2018 and continues to inform the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) approach to women’s rights. Chairman Royce argued that women are still denied access to savings accounts in many places in the world. He also argued that this legislation seeks to help women in the workplace have a stronger economic presence.
In addition to facilitating internal and external training, the USAID provides funding for initiatives and projects geared toward finding a solution through research or developmental programming. USAID’s programming is dedicated to the growth of adolescent girls through education and advocacy. Girls who experience poverty are more likely to lack access to education, basic resources and healthcare.
What Women Can Do With Access
Cathy Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues said, “when women have any economic opportunities, they invest at higher rates.” Furthermore, “if they take out loans they pay their loans back at higher rates than men.” Russell thinks this trend is something to consider when looking to expand the participation of women in the workplace, economies and formal workforce.
H.R. 5480 strongly considers the part property plays in wealth accumulation. The act encourages legal frameworks to give women equal rights to own, register, use, profit from and inherit land and property. The act also targets the very poor and households in ultra-poverty with consumption support, promotion of savings, skills training and asset transfers.
Women-owned businesses do not have equal access to the capital needed to stabilize or expand. Women entrepreneurs lack access to markets, market information, digital services, networks, mentorship and other resources. These resources enable them to overcome the obstacles of starting and growing firms and connecting with buyers. Women’s low participation in the formal labor markets of developing countries impedes economic growth and poverty reduction. The larger the opportunity gap between genders, the more likely a country is to be involved in violent conflict. Countries with a greater balance of men and women in the workplace and workforce have greater growth, innovation and stability. The same goes for firms: those with a stronger ratio of women in leadership, management and the workforce outperform those with fewer women.
Many women globally do not have decision-making power but they still have large stakes in bringing in income. Studies show that incorporating women into the economy and power-yielding spaces is making more sustainable solutions.
Breaking Down the Barriers
Women are not receiving the credit and loans to continue with their businesses. This negatively impacts their business continuity. How can wealthy financial institutions use financial literacy to increase the amount of credit and loans for women in the workplace and their business ventures?
Kathryn Kaufman, the Managing Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, found her niche in financial development at the Office of the Secretary of Defense. She served as a Country Director for China and Taiwan on the Asia Pacific desk in the Secretary’s policy office. Additionally, she served in the United States Embassy, Beijing, in both the Foreign Commercial Service Office and Ambassador’s office as control officer for the Presidential Delegation to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
Kaufmann was a guest speaker in a series of talks on women’s economic empowerment leading up to the G7 summit in June of 2020. G7 is a group of developed countries that work on issues together and oversee any mutually beneficial plans of action. G7’s aspirations are concrete and focused on women in the workplace as financial players. Kaufmann said that many women do not have the background or skills to put together a package that a loan officer would look at to judge if they are qualified borrowers. This creates a power dynamic where women in the workplace looking to start businesses are often at the mercy of loan officers that may or may not have an unconscious bias against them.
There is a misconception that women are less loyal and high-risk customers. Misconceptions such as this are derived from stereotypes about women in the workplace as entrepreneurs, employees and customers. Developmental financial institutions like the office of Global Women’s Issues know that women are more loyal, borrow fewer amounts and pay back their loans at higher rates in less time as opposed to men. Additionally. when women have access to loans, they vaccinate and educate their children.
Addressing these barriers in comprehensive and meaningful ways requires advancing women’s full and free participation in the economy. Developmental financial institutions tackling these misconceptions help to center women in the workplace as entrepreneurs in the greater narrative of fighting global poverty.
– Joy Maina