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On Women’s Coming to Power and how we at Blackhawk are dealing with it

By : Ziad K. Abdelnour| 21 May 2010
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We at Blackhawk believe that a huge and fast-growing group of people are poised to take their place in the economic mainstream over the next decade, as producers, consumers, employees, and entrepreneurs. This group’s impact on the global economy will be at least as significant as that of China and India’s billion-plus populations. But its members have not yet attracted the level of attention they deserve.

If China and India each represent 1 billion emerging participants in the global marketplace, then this group; which we will call the “power group” is made up of women, in both developing and industrialized nations, whose economic lives have previously been stunted, underleveraged, or suppressed.

These women, who have been living or contributing at a subsistence level, are now entering the mainstream for the first time. We estimate that about 870 million of them will do so by 2020, with the number conceivably passing 1 billion during the following decade. Their presence as economic actors will be widely felt, because they have long been overrepresented in the ranks of subsistence agriculture and other resource-based forms of work. As they move into knowledge work, in domains ranging from manufacturing to medicine to education to information technology, their sheer numbers will hasten the integration of the regions where they live into the larger economy.

It is a fact that to date, the potential of women as economic players has been unrealized. Globally, many women could be considered “not prepared” ; others are “not enabled”; and a significant number are both. The specific characteristics of these two major constraints vary widely, according to local social, cultural, and economic conditions. But as the constraints are alleviated, this “Power Group’s” movement into the middle class will accelerate. The pattern of this emergence will probably shift from a graduated incline to a graph that looks more like a hockey stick. No matter how the numbers are counted, a billion or more women are clearly about to participate more fully in the mainstream economy. This represents a significant force in such regions as Latin America, Asia, the Pacific Rim, the Middle East, eastern and central Europe, and Africa.

The last decade as we all know has shown the extraordinary effect that huge population segments can have when they are integrated into the global economy (as in China and India). Newly enabled consumers and workers serve as an economic multiplier, creating vast markets and increasing the size and quality of the talent pool. In periods of relative prosperity, their aspirations and persistence are engines for growth. In slower periods, they represent pockets of economic activity that ameliorate the impact of decline. For example, the growth of emerging consumer markets in China and India helped stabilize the global system during the downturn of 2008–09.

But the multiplier effect of this group of women could be much greater than those of other demographic expansions, and in a way that has not yet been fully appreciated, for at least three reasons.

1. The impact will be spread broadly; the women of this new “Power Group” in the making are not limited to one country, but instead are dispersed in every part of the globe.

2. When women become more active economically, they tend to have fewer children. As the birthrate goes down, the social priorities of a culture change, and it becomes easier for more women to gain preparation and support for leading more independent lives.

3. These women are likely to invest a larger proportion of their household income than men would in the education of their children. As those children grow up, their economic impact increases further. This helps explain why, as a report issued by the UN Development Fund for Women found, investments in women’s enterprises in developing countries yielded greater long-term benefits to the economy as a whole than investments in male-owned enterprises.

Given all of the above, we at Blackhawk are currently building a number of talent recruitment groups around the potential of this “Power Group” . We strongly believe that by investing in these women, we are betting on a brighter future — for a workforce just waiting to blossom, for economies whose development depends on this new crop of talent, and, of course, for ourselves. So the next critical step for us is to recognize more than ever the value of this population of women, and the contribution they can make.

Looking forward to doing business with you all; especially those smart maverick women out there, and to continue being your resource for deals, capital, relationships and advice.

Your feedback as always is greatly appreciated.

Thanks much for your consideration.

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