Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
Washington, DC
May 30, 2012

Greetings to all of you gathered from the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network. I so wish I could be with you in person to commend you on the important work you are doing to advance women’s leadership generally and the progress of women in the economy specifically.

Dell has been an important partner to the State Department in supporting women’s leadership around the world. Last December, Karen Quintos (Kin-tose) was here in Washington when Secretary Clinton launched the Women in Public Service Project, and the role Dell is playing as our technology partner. (Karen, I know you are in New Delhi now, and you were so terrific when you spoke here at the State Department.) Women in Public Service brings emerging women leaders from all over the world together at institutes in the United States and in other countries to create networks, to learn and hone in on leadership skills, and to harness the power of social networking to strengthen their capacity to advance in their public service careers. We can’t thank you at Dell enough for your vision and support for this important project and all that it stands for.

You know, whether it is in politics, public service, or the economy, we know that when women thrive, all of society thrives. As Secretary Clinton said at the Women in the Economy Summit for APEC last September (and Dell was there), the 21st century is the “participation age” where every individual must be a valued member of the global marketplace. You all know this so well, and that is why D-WEN makes so much sense. We need every person to contribute; we cannot afford to leave 50% of our population behind, if we expect to move ahead. With economic models straining in every corner of the world, we need to break down barriers to growth—we need to unlock the door and open it wide to women and women-owned business. As Secretary Clinton said , “by increasing women’s participation in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity, we can bring about a dramatic impact on the competitiveness and growth of our economies. Because when everyone has a chance to participate in the economic life of a nation, we can all be richer. More of us can contribute to the global GDP.”

So we need every single one of you. We know today that there is a mountain of evidence that shows that the return on investment -- a term that was once only used by corporations, but now we use it too -- that the return on investment is often greater with women. When women participate in the economy, we see greater returns in health, education, even agriculture. For example, just by giving women the same access to agriculture resources as men—land, tools, materials, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent. This increase could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by enough to feed an additional 150 million people around the world.

Women disproportionately spend more of their earned income on food, healthcare, home improvement, and education, which has a multiplier effect in local communities. By making these kinds of investments, women are also raising the standard of living around the world. As we know in countries where the gender gap is closer to being closed in access to education , health survivability, economic participation, and political participation—countries and economies are more competitive and more prosperous as a whole.

You’ve heard us say this before: Investing in women is not just the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing, the strategic thing to do. For every country.

Entrepreneurship is at the center of this growth opportunity. In the US, small businesses employ 50% of the private workforce, generate more than half of the nation’s GDP, and are the principal source of new jobs. I don’t have to tell you, increasing the ability for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses, giving them the tools and training to run their own businesses, leads to greater economic growth. You all know this—you have been the trailblazers for women entrepreneurs around the world. Your spectacular earnings, your leadership, your ability to challenge barriers are exactly the kind of engine that is so necessary to growth in every country. But too many women who want to start a business or grow their business find the same hurdles: access to finance, markets, technology and training. Some confront discriminatory regulations or laws. Some are dealing with deeply entrenched practices that make it difficult for women to own property or inherit. That is why we are working with women entrepreneurs from Africa to Latin America to help them overcome such obstacles.

And as you all gather here in India, which is such a significant player for private sector development as well as entrepreneurship at the grassroots level through the self-help group movement, I was excited to see the topics you all are discussing—from doing business in India to developing social media strategies to using technology to help your businesses grow to so much more. I wish I was here with all of you but I look forward to hearing about your successes.

I challenge all of you in the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, while you are in New Delhi, and as you build success upon success throughout the years—as you surely will—to focus on rooting yourselves and your business firmly in your own economies and beyond. As you grow your business, you will also become employers, educators, leaders, national and international decision makers. You may have experienced, first-hand, the barriers to women’s progress and you are all women who have broken those barriers. Today you are successful entrepreneurs, tomorrow you are the change makers who make it possible for other women to progress as well. As Secretary Clinton reminds us, “If women’s potential is not tapped and women’s progress is shortchanged, global progress and prosperity will have its own glass ceiling.”

Thank you for all you do and all you will do in the months and years ahead. I wish you much success.