There are a billion women living in the Commonwealth, who are also 43% of the world’s poorest women.
This underscores the fact that women in business, specifically women’s economic empowerment is everybody’s business.
There are three macro drivers that will increasingly affect women in business in the Commonwealth and provide the context for their learning and living.
The first concerns the digital economy and divide. Digital technologies have spread rapidly in much of the world. In many instances, digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery. However their aggregate impact has fallen short and is unevenly distributed with digital dividends - the broader development benefits from using these technologies - lagging behind. For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access.
Even so, greater digital adoption will not be enough. To get the most out of the digital revolution, countries also need to work on the “analog complements” - by strengthening regulations that ensure competition among businesses, by adapting workers’ skills to the demands of the new economy and by ensuring that institutions are accountable. This includes women-owned businesses leveraging technology to move up the global and regional value chain and women executives entering and progressing in non-traditional areas.
The second key trend is that the way we work is changing with specific implications for businesswomen. Developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape.
Thirdly, digitisation is opening the door for emerging economies, small businesses, and individuals to participate directly in globalisation. For the first time in history, emerging economies are counterparts on more than half of global trade flows, and South-South trade is the fastest-growing type of connection. Small businesses worldwide are becoming “micro-multinationals” by using digital platforms to connect with customers and suppliers in other countries. Digital platforms also enhances the ability of women-owned enterprises to reach new markets, to learn, find work, showcase their talent and build personal networks. Online outsourcing is just one example of where women are an increasingly important stakeholder in this process.
In parallel with these developments, trade between Commonwealth countries has seen phenomenal growth, rising from about $200 billion in 2000 to more than $600 billion today and it is likely to surpass $1 trillion by 2020.
According to the Secretary General Designate Baroness Patricia Scotland 'the Commonwealth can be such a powerful catalyst for action on behalf of women.’
To fully benefit from trends above and the potential for Commonwealth trade and investment, the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network (CBW), an accredited organisation focused on women’s economic empowerment recognised by all Commonwealth Governments, encourages, enables and embeds economic empowerment through outcomes across the ‘3 Ts’ of trade, talent and training that are measurable, impactful and - crucially for a community of a billion women across five continents - scalable.
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