SEATTLE — On February 7, 2019, President Trump signed a National Security Presidential Memorandum called the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP). The initiative will promote women’s economic empowerment to increase workforce participation and advance 50 million women globally by 2025. It will direct U.S. policy and programmatic efforts to support women’s workforce development and female entrepreneurship while removing employment barriers to foster welcoming environments that allow women to fully participate in the economy.
A Dark History, But a Bright Future
A historically unequal global society has been sculpting the trajectory of women’s lives for generations. The World Bank reported that 2.7 billion women throughout 112 countries still are unable to work in industries or jobs considered “morally inappropriate” through legal forms of discrimination. Nearly 20 countries allow husbands to legally prevent their wives from working and earning their own income. Additionally, many countries still prohibit women from inheriting land or even opening bank accounts without permission from male family members.
The U.N. Women reported the following facts and figures, supportive of the rationale behind the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative:
- Globally, women earn approximately 77 percent of what men earn. This percentage does not account for self-employment income.
- Female farmers have more difficulties accessing, controlling and owning land than their male counterparts.
- Women are less likely to be entrepreneurs and more likely to face greater difficulty than men when starting their own businesses.
- Women often are passed over for high leadership positions: Of the Fortune 500 CEOs, only five percent of them are women.
- More than half of the migrant working population are women, many of whom experience poor working conditions, limited labor and social protections and are exposed to physical and sexual violence.
- The economic empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality in the labor market are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- Research shows that increasing women’s employment and leadership opportunities directly increase organizational effectiveness, inclusive growth, productivity, economic diversification and income equality.
Acknowledging Women’s Untapped Potential
When First Daughter Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser to President Trump, penned an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal introducing to the world the president’s W-GDP Initiative, she wrote that it “will coordinate America’s commitment to one of the most undervalued resources in the developing world—the talent, ambition and genius of women.” A White House press conference identified the range of women who potentially could benefit from the initiative as “a dairy farmer in Georgia to the founder of a women’s group in Malawi.”
Although still in its infancy, Nancy Lee, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and a former U.S. Treasury official, believes “the initiative could be truly transformative if it actually brings women’s issues to the forefront of all development efforts…” The W-GDP Initiative aims to achieve this through “innovative educational programs, financial and technical assistance, capacity building and mentorship,” and will engage both the private and public sectors and civil society to ensure women reach their fullest economic potential.
Trump’s Memorandum on W-GDP
As President Trump stated in his Memorandum on Promoting Women’s Global Development and Prosperity, which aligns with his 2017 National Security Strategy, he believes advancing women’s and girls’ rights worldwide is integral to America’s economic and national securities. In order to achieve a sound global economy as well as promote peace and stability, both men and women need to secure and flourish in well-paying jobs at all levels. Research done by the U.S. State Department shows that if women and men equally participated in labor markets, nearly $12 trillion could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.
Because the W-GDP Initiative is grounded in the National Security Strategy, it will assist U.S. leadership abroad in fostering developing countries’ self-reliance, allowing for their transformation into America’s security and economic partners. Also highlighted in the president’s memorandum is the idea that the size of the opportunity gap between men and women is directly related to the likelihood of a country experiencing conflict. However, when they are economically empowered, women reinvest in their families and local communities, sparking the economic growth needed to create more stable societies.
Implementing the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative
The following are partners of the W-GDP Initiative that will be making women’s economic development their top priority.
- U.S. Departments of State, Treasury, Labor and Commerce
- U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
- Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
- Millennium Challenge Corporation
- Peace Corps
- U.S. African Development Foundation
- Inter-American Foundation
The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative also establishes a $50 million fund for USAID. The money will be invested in new programs that provide women with the education and skills training needed to enter the workforce. It also will be invested in programs that help women succeed as entrepreneurs through financing, access to markets and networks as well as in programs addressing the legal, regulatory and cultural barriers inhibiting women from working.
If the funding allocated is sufficient, the strategy implemented to break down barriers is effective and Congress passes legislation that helps U.S. companies to reach their fullest economic potential for equality worldwide, then the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative could help to solve several social and economic inequalities faced by women.
– Julianne Russo