Who Are The Third Billion?

You may not have heard of the “third billion,” but you may one day feel their impact.


“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman.”
– Melinda French Gates

For decades women entrepreneurs have made an impact in the western world. The magazine publishing and clothing industries led by women clearly have had an influence. Now women entrepreneurs are becoming a force in the developing world as well.

Entrepreneur.com states the third billion is a term used to describe the billion women, mostly from emerging markets, who will join the global economy as employees, employers and entrepreneurs over the next decade.

From India to Turkey, women entrepreneurs are on the leading edge of this shift, poised to transform their local economies and, in doing so, change the world. While about two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are female, research shows that educated mothers are more likely to participate in the labor force.

The Entrepreneur.com article continues citing while the experiences of women entrepreneurs in the developing world are as diverse as the countries they inhabit, since the difficulties facing a small woman-owned business in Vietnam looks nothing like that of a new venture in, say, Turkey or India, there are some common challenges.

The La Pietra Coalition, a group of leaders advocating for women’s advancement that previously launched The Third Billion campaign to support the scores of women entering the workforce identifies four challenges that stand between women and equal opportunity. In addition to access to education, these issues include access to legal protection, access to capital, and access to markets. In many cases, they overlap or compound one another.

The organization Vital Voices, a partner with La Pietra Coalition provides this description of what they do. “We identify, invest in and bring visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities.

Our international staff and team of over 1,000 partners, pro bono experts and leaders, including senior government, corporate and NGO executives, have trained and mentored more than 14,000 emerging women leaders from over 144 countries in Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East since 1997. These women have returned home to train and mentor more than 500,000 additional women and girls in their communities. They are the Vital Voices of our time.”

“The fundamental difference between entrepreneurs in developing countries and in the U.S.,” says Natalie Byrne, director of Global Impact at skin care company Dermalogica, “is that in many parts of the world, women don’t have access to banking systems and often can’t receive loans without permission from a man such as their husband or brother.”

Tech company Dell announced the results of its gender-focused Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index, which ranks 17 countries based on a wide range of indicators, including some of those identified by the La Pietra Coalition above.

Unsurprisingly, the U.S., Australia and Germany ranked at the top of the list, while India, one of the fastest developing economies in the world, ranked at No. 16. India scored relatively high in the category of “opportunity recognition,” which measures the number of women who can identify a good climate to start a local business, but low in “institutional foundations,” or the established support and infrastructure they need to pursue their goals.

Turkish women entrepreneurs, especially in the country’s less-developed eastern half, need better support systems in their families and adequate financial opportunity. A bank account, which only 33 percent of Turkish women have, according to the Dell study, paves the way to bank loans and credit lines and, ultimately, to credibility in the eyes of local and state authorities who grant permission to operate.

In terms of keeping the promise to the third billion Strategy-business.com reports as political leaders around the world continue to struggle with economic headwinds, many of them are neglecting one of their most significant opportunities: raising the status of women, especially those in emerging economies. Nearly 1 billion women could enter the global economy in the next decade, moving into roles as employees, executives, and entrepreneurs. So far, many of these individuals have been economically stunted, under-leveraged, or held back, to the point where they are invisible to the global economy. By standing in the way of women, countries are letting a valuable resource sit idle.

Strategy-business.com concludes, “Who are these women, and why is their status so important? According to data from the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency that tracks global workforce statistics, roughly 865 million women will be of working age (between the ages of 20 and 65) by 2020, yet will still lack the fundamental prerequisites to contribute to their national economy. Either they don’t have the necessary education and training to work, or—more frequently—they simply can’t work, owing to legal, familial, logistical, and financial constraints.

Of these 865 million women, 812 million live in emerging and developing nations.

We call this group the Third Billion, because its economic impact will be just as significant as that of the billion-plus populations of China or India.”

The organization Wamda.com, inspiring, empowering and connecting entrepreneurs adds, “It’s no secret that women are poised to transform the global economy over the next decade.”

A study by Booz and Company, released last year, looks at what governments, companies, investors, and NGOs can do to ensure that the so-called Third Billion- the 1 billion women poised to enter the workforce -as sizable as the billion-plus populations in India and China- realizes it’s potential. Women stand to have the greatest impact in the Middle East- increasing the number of women in the workforce could impact the GDP of the UAE and Egypt by 19% and 56%, respectively.

The reports points to solutions for women flexible work hours, nurseries, and the establishment of healthy entrepreneurial ecosystems in each country, with mentorship being a large priority, especially in Saudi Arabia, where over 75% of women received no encouragement to start a business.

Ms. Cherie Blair, CBE, QC, known professionally as Cherie Booth QC, is a British barrister practicing in England and Wales. She is married to the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair and has created The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

The charity was set up in 2008 in response to Ms. Blair’s experiences meeting women around the world and the realization that, with the right support, women can overcome the challenges they face and play an important part in the economies and societies in which they work and live.

The core of her group’s work is strengthening the capacity of women entrepreneurs in countries where they lack equal opportunities. The group focuses their support on women in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, where they can add value and where they see clear potential for women in business to become self-sustaining in the longer term. They rely on local knowledge and resources wherever possible, working in partnership with local organizations based in the countries we work in.

As well as fighting for human rights in her professional career, Ms. Blair is an active campaigner on equality and human rights issues. She has spoken across the world on both issues and also on the need for improved work/life balance for both women and men.

Ms. Blair’s website welcomes contributions in all forms to help them provide the resources, skills and support needed for women to reach the next level and in doing so benefit not just women entrepreneurs, but their children, families and communities at large.

As female competitors continue to pursue their educational and wrestling goals, Female Competition International will continue to accept the responsibility to provide information that is educational regarding the evolving landscape of women’s hopes, dreams and emerging opportunities around the globe and how all of us may help and get involved.

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Sources: Entrepreneur.com, http://www.strategy-business.com, Wamda.com, http://www.vitalvoices.org/what-we-do http://www.cherieblairfoundation.org/ photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons.