Ivanka Trump, daughter of and advisor to United States President Donald Trump, on Tuesday pitched for access to capital and equitable laws for women entrepreneurs, saying closing the gender entrepreneurship gap could grow global gross domestic product by up to 2 per cent.
In her keynote address at the 8th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, she said that despite the soaring rate of female entrepreneurs, women still face steep obstacles to starting, owning, and growing their businesses.
"Fuelling the growth of women-led businesses isn’t simply good for our society -- it’s good for our economy. One study estimates that closing the gender entrepreneurship gap worldwide could grow our global GDP by as much as 2 per cent,” she said.
Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said he has proved that transformational change is possible in rising from a humble tea seller to heading the country.
She termed Modi's achievement as ‘truly extraordinary’.
“From your childhood selling tea to your election as India's Prime Minister, you've proven that transformational change is possible," she said. “And now, you are bringing that promise to hundreds of millions of people across your country. Thank you.”
“And thank you, Prime Minister Modi, for joining us here today -- and for all that you are doing to build India as a thriving economy -- a beacon of democracy -- and a symbol of hope to the world," he said. "What you are achieving is truly extraordinary."
She applauded Modi for his firm belief that ‘the progress of humanity is incomplete without the empowerment of women’ and went on to congratulate Indians on celebrating 70 years of Independence.
“You are celebrating it as the world's largest democracy and one of the fastest growing economies on the earth,” Ivanka said.
“Through your own enterprise, entrepreneurship, and hard work, the people of India have lifted more than 130 million citizens out of poverty -- a remarkable improvement, and one I know will continue to grow under the leadership of Prime
Minister Modi,” she stressed.
Ivanka further said people of India inspire globally and went on to cite the example of CEOs like Microsoft's Satya Nadella who went to school right here in Hyderabad.
"Today, we come together to celebrate what is happening here in India, what is happening in the United States -- and all over the world: entrepreneurs are revolutionising our economies, and improving our societies," she said.
Ivanka, 36, a businesswoman, fashion designer and the eldest daughter of the US President, was invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the White House in June to speak at the Summit. She is leading the US contingent at the Summit themed ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’.
She opened her speech by stressing how all over the world entrepreneurs are 'revolutionising our economies, and improving our societies'.
“You are rewriting the rules,” she said and went on to talk about this year’s GES theme. “This year’s summit is focussed on a theme that is key to our future: Women First, Prosperity For All. I am proud that for the first time ever, women make up the majority of the 1,500 entrepreneurs selected to attend.”
Women, according to Ivanka, can help lead the way in closing this gap and ushering in a new age of greater prosperity. “We must ensure women entrepreneurs have access to capital, access to networks and mentors, and access to equitable laws,” she added.
Ivanka also said reducing gender gap in the labour force by half can help boost Indian economy by over $150 billion in the next three years and reiterated her father's words that ‘India has a true friend in the White House’.
“Just consider if India closes the labour force gender gap by half, your economy could grow by over $150 billion dollars in the next three years," she said.
While her trip to India has been hogging media limelight, questions have been raised about whether her message of empowering poor women matches her actions.
Critics have faulted her for failing to use her leadership role to call out labour and human rights abuses and her refusal take a public stand on alleged abuses in her
brand’s own supply chain.
The Associated Press in a news report on Tuesday said a September investigation by it 'showed that Trump’s supply chain has become more opaque than ever since she took on her White House role, making it impossible to know who her company is doing business with around the world. The brand has said supply chains are the responsibility of its licensees'.
In her speech at the GES, Ivanka highlighted what the US is doing to reverse the trend. "The US Small Business Administration, for example, increased its lending to women by over $500 million this year alone," she emphasised.
The US administration is fostering mentorship through programmes such as SCORE -- a nation-wide initiative where successful men and women coach those who want to become their own CEOs.
“Our administration is striving to promote greater opportunity for women around the world, both through our domestic reforms and our international initiatives,” she said.
At the G20 conference, the United States was a founding member of a bold, new initiative with the World Bank – the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, or WeFi. This facility provides access to capital, networks, and mentorship for women in developing countries.
“At home, our administration is committed to empowering women entrepreneurs through domestic reforms. In the past 11 months, we have expanded apprenticeship programmes and prioritised STEM education to ensure that women -- and men -- have more opportunities to master the skills that drive progress in the 21st century,” she stated.
The US has dramatically reduced job-crushing regulations which disproportionately hurt entrepreneurs and small business owners.
“And we are laser-focused on passing long overdue tax cuts. This will provide the much-needed relief to working families and businesses of all sizes,” she said, adding that this year, the President’s Budget included a proposal to establish a nation-wide programme for paid family leave.
“We are committed to supporting women, and men, who work, inside and outside of the home,” Ivanka added.
In the last decade, the USAID has promoted women entrepreneurship through a number of programmes, including providing micro-finance loans to women in Afghanistan, and bringing Internet access to women in Nigeria and Kenya.
She concluded by highlighting the inspirational stories of some of the entrepreneurs in attendance.