by Magdalah Racine-Silva, NWBC Council Member and President & CEO of DMS International

The National Women’s Business Council and Business Forward, in conjunction with the White House Council on Women and Girls, hosted a White House briefing for women business leaders and entrepreneurs. It was an intimate group of 40 women who are diverse in industry, race, geography and more; but all have tremendous influence within their own communities. This event was an opportunity for senior Administration officials to engage with women entrepreneurs and discuss how the Administration can help women across the country grow their businesses, and also leverage their power and influence within their own communities – community having a broad sense.
The half day schedule included a panel discussion on Women, Government, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship, three industry-specific breakout sessions, and discussions with prominent women business leaders. The topics for the breakout sessions were: women in the technology sector and what the Administration is doing to support their work; women who lead in the investing and private access to capital industry; and government funding and financing resources available to women entrepreneurs.
I participated in the afternoon panel – which included Greg Nelson, Special Assistant and Senior Advisor to the National Economic Council (moderator), Betsey Stevenson, member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and Jane Campbell, Senior Advisor to Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
My remarks focused on the shift taking place between the rights that women have historically achieved and the new modern context of economic power that we represent. How is it that a 3 trillion economic force creating 23 million jobs in America is still fighting in 2014 to be relevant? Barriers continue to exist for access to capital, federal markets, counseling and supply chains limiting the ability for women’s contribution to the economy to multiply exponentially.
In the next decade, nearly 1 billion women are set to enter the global workforce and this will play a significant role in countries around the world. The potential impact of nearly 1 billion women entering the global labor force will be as significant as the impact of the billion-plus populations of either China or India thus the term “Third Billion”. Yet, women still have not received the necessary attention from government, businesses and trade organizations to empower them to be producers, employees, and business owners strengthening the impact of their economic and social contribution to society. The ripple effect of concerted programs preparing women as contributors to the economic mainstream will have tangible benefits in GDP, literacy, education and lowering infant mortality.
Yet according to studies women business owners are being rejected an average of 10 times before they can get a bank loan and are fighting for access to corporate supply chains to the very companies that they purchase from. We need to create awareness around this modern reality with policies that support and encourage market and capital access empowering women in business to do more of what they are already doing.
Events like this are important for many reasons: we engaged women – 40 more women! – business leaders in the policymaking process; participants learned from administration officials about the federal resources available to help them grow their businesses; and most notably, it’s a platform for women business leaders to directly advise policymakers on the challenges facing their industry and the economy as a whole. This two way dialogue is crucial to the work that we do on behalf of women business owners, leaders, and entrepreneurs.