Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
OECD Conference Centre, 31 October 2011
Ambassador Verveer, Ambassador Kornbluh, Ms. Davis, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure to be with you today to open this pre-G20 event on “Growing Economies through Women’s Entrepreneurship”.
I want to thank the United States for organising it in collaboration with the OECD. I also want to express my deep recognition to Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Verveer and Ambassador Kornbluh for their commitment and leadership in promoting equal opportunities for women and men.
Let me start these opening remarks with some reasons for hope.
The growth potential of women’s entrepreneurship is becoming more and more evident throughout the world. In many OECD economies, women are starting businesses at a faster rate than men (i). In developing countries, we now have 8-10 million women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs), representing 31 to 38% of total SMEs (ii). In some of these countries these firms are growing at faster rates than those owned by men (iii).
These figures, from the G20 Report by the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) and a myriad of international organisations and gender institutions - including the OECD - are very encouraging indeed.
However, women entrepreneurs are still facing many obstacles.
Women are less likely than men to have access to credit, resources, and education. This gives them a serious disadvantage as potential entrepreneurs. Women are also more likely than men to be in vulnerable jobs in the informal sector, to be underemployed or without a job; in addition to carrying out unpaid work in households.
In addition, women face disproportionately high legal and regulatory barriers that affect their ability to run stronger, more viable businesses with an attractive risk profile for financial institutions. Because of these and other obstacles, many women business-owners, continue to be concentrated in small, low growth enterprises, which are often unable to fully mature.
We need to put our minds and expertise together to find effective solutions to these problems. Multilateral cooperation is the way to go.
The OECD is supporting this effort in different ways.
- Through our OECD Gender Initiative, we are working to develop a new framework of international statistics on women entrepreneurs.
- The OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum, co-chaired by Ambassador Kornbluh, provides a useful platform for exchanging experiences and good practices in offering financial literacy training, investor readiness programmes and professional mentoring.
- Our Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) quantifies the hidden dimensions of gender inequality in entrepreneurship, providing a unique tool to better understand how laws, practices and social norms influence women’s economic and social roles.
- Our innovative innovative Wiki-gender Web 2.0 platform is promoting intense information and data exchange on gender equality.
These are all significant ongoing contributions, but we can still do more. There are many ways in which we can help materialize the policy recommendations in the G20 GPFI Report.
We can guide and support the collection of more and better data. We can use our OECD Scoreboard on SMEs and Entrepreneurship Finance and we can provide it with a gender dimension in the supply-side data on loans, interest rates, government guarantees, etc. And we can certainly lead efforts to identify, evaluate and support the replication of successful models, and impregnate all OECD policy advice with the need to foster women entrepreneurship.
Dear Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Girls and women represent 3.3 billion ways to change this world. This is the lemma from this year’s G20 Girls Summit. It is also a powerful truth. We need to unleash this potential. We need to empower girls and women to become successful entrepreneurs and drive economic growth. The amount of data proving the benefits is overwhelming. The moment is ripe. Let’s all engage. We have a lot to learn from each other. We need a global cultural change. Our ideas and our cooperation can make it happen!
(i) Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) & International Finance Corporation, “Strengthening Access to Finance for Women-Owned SMEs in Developing Countries”, October 2011, p.12
(ii) Idem, p.3
(iii) Idem, p.12