Women entrepreneurs can make the difference in Trinidad and Tobago’s economy, but State support is needed in order to accomplish this, said Dr Avis DeWeever.
DeWeever, an American entrepreneur and writer who delivered the feature address at the Women in Enterprise Conference held at the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA), Port of Spain on Monday, said on a global scale women entrepreneurs are critical to fast-growing economies, especially in sub-Sahara Africa and this part of the world, including Latin America and the Caribbean.
She said research shows that women in emerging countries reinvest some 90 cents on every dollar that they make, but what is most important is that they invest in the critical areas of family, education, nutrition and health.
“In other words, we invest in all those things that make families, communities and countries strong. Women are more likely to be business owners than in many other parts of the world and Trinidad and Tobago, and Tobago especially, there is particularly fertile ground here to have a strong and vibrant community of women business owners,” said DeWeever, who served as executive director of the National Council of Negro Women and also held appointments with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
“According to the latest gender report, for example over half of the women in this nation see good opportunities to start a business, more than 70 per cent believe that you are capable of becoming an entrepreneur, and less than 20 per cent fear business failure.
“In each of these respects, you greatly out-perform African American women in general, as well as women around the world and particularly your region. Yet to maximise the opportunities that clearly exist here, the truth of the matter is you need support.
“In my mind, government-supported gender specific programmes will ultimately be the difference-maker in T&T to help this nation really become the shining standout that it deserves to be in terms of its ability to maximise its power and potential of women entrepreneurs,” she said.
DeWeever said the research on this is clear—those countries that invest in women through State-sponsored, gender-focused programming grow their own economies.
She went on to outline six steps that need to be taken in order to do this, including gender-specific initiatives to target the education and training of women in non-traditional yet in-demand fields by broadening the scope of fields that women have exposure to to broaden perspectives, establish laws and regulations that maximise women’s land ownership opportunities.
“It is important that we increase women’s access to financial services and provide information on how to raise capital from both public and private sources, provide better incentives targeted to women entrepreneurs for contracting opportunities and raise an early awareness and power of being an entrepreneur among girls.”
DeWeever added that the people of Trinidad and Tobago have to come to see women entrepreneurship as a priority and it is the responsibility of everyone to make the issue a national imperative, because it is not just women’s work.
“Today, around the world, well over 200 million women are either starting or currently running their own business and over 100 million of those employ others in the process, 12 million are set to employ up to six additional people in the next five years...just taking into account that specific group of women entrepreneurs we are talking about adding another 72 million jobs.
“Women then have the power to exponentially accelerate entire economies...I will even go as far to say we are the key ingredient in rebounding a global economy that in may ways is still reeling from being on the edge of a huge financial disaster,” she stated.