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The Double-X Factor: Harnessing Female Human Capital for Economic Growth

The Double-X Factor: Harnessing Female Human Capital for Economic Growth

Linda Jones, Alexandra Snelgrove and Pamela Muckosy. (2006) International Journal of Emerging Markets. Emerald Insight Publishing. Vol. 1, Issue 4.

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the promotion of gender equality and the deployment of female human capital increases a country's prosperity. Women often become stakeholders in private sector development through involvement in micro and small enterprises (MSEs) – either as owners or employees. This is especially true in situations where employment opportunities are limited by geography, socio-cultural norms, and underdeveloped public and private sectors. Once women have gained experience in a microenterprise, they have expanded potential to contribute to the advancement of commerce and trade. The obstacles lie, not in understanding this concept, but in designing and implementing programs that overcome the challenges confronting disadvantaged women who are attempting to build businesses and participate in viable industries.

This paper draws on MEDA’s fifty-year history in private sector development to provide evidence that, with modest investments and good program design, even highly marginalized women can become active economic players. The first section briefly examines the concept that, with appropriate support for the small business sector, women contribute to growth in emerging markets; the middle section presents a series of case studies from MEDA’s portfolio of value chain development and microfinance projects to both illustrate the concept and to offer lessons learned regarding successful programming; the final section concludes with remarks regarding the mobilization of women’s unused capacity in the pursuit of economic prosperity in emerging markets.