Business Leadership Training Program
The primary objective of this joint project of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) and the Young Americans Business Trust (YABT) is to train women and men in business leadership skills, beginning with a training course in May 2001. The statistical data indicate the need for increased participation by women in the labor market, particularly in the business arena and in nontraditional careers. The CIM and the YABT have decided to develop this project jointly. It will be implemented in stages, in the different regions of the Hemisphere (Southern Cone, Andean region, Central America, and Caribbean), beginning with a pilot project in Argentina that will include the gender perspective throughout the curriculum.
The Young Americans Business Trust is part of the Unit for Social Development and Education of the Organization of American States. This partnership between the Organization of American States and the private sector is based on over 15 years of experience with development programs for entrepreneurs in the Americas and the Caribbean. It aims to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among youth of the 34 member states through innovative programs involving business partnerships, training, international cooperation, and technology. Its privileged relationship with the Organization of American States creates a framework for establishing mutually beneficial agreements for cooperation with business leaders, other international organizations, nonprofit organizations, and different government sectors in the Hemisphere. The Young Americans Business Trust was created in accordance with the goals set forth by the presidential Summit of the Americas for establishing a sound dialogue with the private sector.
The Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) is a specialized agency of the Organization of American States, established in 1928 during the Sixth International Conference of American States (Havana, Cuba). It was the world’s first intergovernmental body created for the express purpose of ensuring recognition of women’s civil and political rights. As such, it has played a prominent role in furthering the participation and support of women as a legitimate and essential element of governance and international consensus-building. The CIM’s mission is to promote and protect women’s rights. It likewise aims to support member states in their efforts to ensure full enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, so that women and men can participate equally in all areas of society, fully and equally enjoy the benefits of development, and share responsibility for the future.
Rapid economic and social changes spurred by the globalization of markets, increased competition, new technologies, and communications require new ways of thinking and acting in the business world. In this new context, women’s leadership styles, abilities, and skills become particularly valuable in the labor market and in the business sphere.
In both developed and developing countries, women in the private sector are assuming increasing leadership in the promotion of sustainable development. Independent entrepreneurs, both men and women, play an extremely important role in generating wealth and employment. In the United States economy, companies with fewer than 20 employees provide one third of all jobs. And women manage a growing number of these small businesses. Women own more than 9 million businesses, employing over 27 million workers and generating more than 3.6 trillion dollars annually in sales.
One of the main concerns in Latin America is the lack of sufficient job opportunities, based on the widely accepted notion that not enough jobs are being created. If we add to this: (1) women’s disproportionate participation in the economically active population (EAP); and (2) worldwide trends toward the establishment of microenterprises and small and medium-sized businesses, it becomes clear that we need to focus on the population group comprising young women as future job-creators. With respect to women’s participation in the EAP, women account for 30% of the labor force in Latin America and more than 40% in the Caribbean. At the same time, population censuses indicate that in 19 Latin American countries, between 1960 and 1990 the number of economically active (EA) women rose by 211%, while the number of EA men grew by approximately 84%.
Today’s political world is paying increasing attention to microenterprises and small businesses as the driving force behind economic growth, social welfare, and job creation. And this is where women have an increasingly strong presence. According to recent statistics, the number of firms established by women worldwide is growing at twice the rate of those established by men. The number of female employers grew from 26% in 1970 to 40% in 1990, despite the difficulties experienced by women-operated small and medium-sized enterprises as they try to secure funding or break into new markets.
In a recent survey carried out in Argentina by the National Foundation of Women Business Owners and IBM Argentina, telephone interviews were conducted with 602 businesspeople (300 women, 302 men). Of the women interviewed, 61% replied that it would be very helpful to meet regularly with other businesswomen in their community in order to share ideas and experiences. Moreover, 59% of the women interviewed said that it would be useful to attend business-related courses and seminars, and 55% felt that it was important to receive training in finance, marketing, and related subjects. Women expressed interest in receiving support from government agencies on issues related to business development.
We can say that there is a strong desire for new types of training, networking, and alliance-building among sectors involved in business activities. Training programs play a critical role in terms of labor supply and professional retraining. In recent years, development agencies have implemented numerous training initiatives for women in the informal sector, at the microenterprise level, and in nontraditional occupations, and have studied ways of incorporating the gender perspective.
Accordingly, this project aims to foster business activities among entrepreneurs, both women and men, and mainly young people, in the 34 member states of the Organization of American States. Given the program’s broad scope, it will begin with a pilot project in Argentina and then expand to the regional level through the creation of inter-American forums through which these young women can share their experiences and knowledge. The national counterpart in Argentina is the Undersecretariat for Equal Opportunity of the Government of the Province of Buenos Aires. Training is expected to begin in May 2001.
A number of factors influenced the decision to carry out the pilot phase in Argentina. According to a study by the Inter-American Development Bank, the education rate (measured in years of formal schooling) is 9.49 years, and is slightly higher for 25 year-old women. According to ECLAC statistics, however, this population group is less economically active and experiences higher levels of open unemployment. While competition and opening markets in Argentina have increased productivity, unemployment and recession have become increasingly acute among vast sectors of society. Fostering business activities, therefore, is essential to economic growth and job creation.
During 2001 and 2002, the proposal will be extended to other regions–the Southern Cone, the Andean region, Central America, and the Caribbean–according to the outcome of the Argentine experience, a survey of needs, and the perceived level of interest.
The operating strategy for project implementation emphasizes the following areas of interest: nontraditional career training (information technologies, e-commerce); job creation; business planning; access to credit; distance education and training (on-line seminars); women’s participation and leadership; networking; negotiation; balancing work and family; training of trainers.
Implementation will include efforts to enlist the support of private corporations in the early stages of project design. Local arrangements will also be made with businesses, universities, chambers of commerce, professional associations, civic associations specializing in women’s issues and gender issues, and government agencies, in order to organize local and regional seminars.
The project’s overall objective is to foster the development of business-related abilities and skills in young entrepreneurs by providing the latest information on means and obstacles involved in the successive stages of the business cycle. The aim is to train participants to achieve short- and long-term goals in nontraditional fields, enabling them to assume leadership roles in their businesses and communities, with emphasis placed on socially responsible business. In order to accomplish this general objective, it will be necessary to forge strategic alliances and networks among a broad range of local and regional players and nongovernmental organizations.
© 2007 Organization of American States.