Women Around the World  

In this country, as in many, if you hold the purse strings, you control a lot of the power. Women in the U.S. make 85 percent of all purchases. They earn, inherit and control vast amounts of wealth. But how are women in other countries doing?

In France, the female workforce is growing at an increasingly rapid rate. At the beginning of the 1950s, seven million women held a paying job, or about a third of the working population. Today women make up 47 percent of the workforce. Credit Agricole Asset Management Japan Ltd., a French-affiliated asset management company, has formed an all-women project team responsible for developing investment products for women as well as offering various programs, including marketing plans, education and seminars, for companies that sell these products.

In the UK, women started 38,100 businesses in the first six months of this year, up nine percent for the same period last year (34,600), according to the latest small business research from Barclays. Women are continuing to break through the glass ceiling of British businesses. Almost 40 percent of full-time female employees earn more than their partners. According to The Economist, since 1970, women have held two out of three new jobs. "Over the last 10 years the increase in women [in the workplace] in developed countries has made more of a contribution to global growth than China has," concludes the British Weekly.

Southeast Asia's economic success is due primarily to women who hold two-thirds of the jobs in the export industry, the region's most dynamic sector. There were 337 million female employees in China by the end of 2004, accounting for 44.8 percent of the total workforce. The following message was seen on a billboard in the country town of Qingtianxian, Zhejiang Province in China: "Nu haishi guojia de weilai!" meaning "Girls are the country's future!"

Russian and Indian businesswomen have taken up the responsibility of boosting trade between the two countries, according to The Hindu newspaper. Ms. Mukta Nandini Jain, President of the FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO), said there was no reason why Indo-Russian trade, stagnant for more than a decade at about $2 billion, should not grow to $20 - $25 billion.

The Committee of 20 is a nonprofit organization comprised of the most successful Russian businesswomen. They hold top positions in leading companies. Their mission is to help Russian women entrepreneurs succeed and be recognized as an influential power in the economic development of the country.

In New Delhi, India, developers, recognizing women’s purchasing power and decision-making authority, are creating malls that cater only to women. The North Square with its tagline, “Here, woman is a queen,” carries all the popular brands. There is even a children’s play area with caretakers so women can browse and shop without the hassle of children. In India women are becoming more prominent. The country's dominant political party, the National Congress Party, is headed by Sonia Gandhi, a woman who is considered one of the World's Most Powerful Women and a keen businesswoman.

A recently expanded Rwanda Path to Peace project is helping thousands of survivors of Rwanda's 1994 genocide lead more successful lives through the sale of handmade peace baskets. "The Macy's Rwanda Path to Peace project has given thousands of women the opportunity to demonstrate their strength, talent and pride in ways they never thought possible," Willa Shalit said in a recent Macy's press release.

On a less positive note, women in the Middle East still have limited power, recourses and skills. While more women are becoming entrepreneurs, it is slow. Turning a business idea into reality is difficult. But, in democracy-challenged countries known for their particularly severe gender bias and high poverty and illiteracy rates, these women face an even steeper battle than your average entrepreneur. The bright side: Things should only get better as many new programs are giving women a chance.


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