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  • We do not invest in victims,

  • we invest in survivors.

  • And in ways both big and small,

  • the narrative of the victim

  • shapes the way we see women.

  • You can't count what you don't see.

  • And we don't invest in what's invisible to us.

  • But this is the face

  • of resilience.

  • Six years ago,

  • I started writing about women entrepreneurs

  • during and after conflict.

  • I set out to write a compelling economic story,

  • one that had great characters, that no one else was telling,

  • and one that I thought mattered.

  • And that turned out to be women.

  • I had left ABC news and a career I loved at the age of 30

  • for business school,

  • a path I knew almost nothing about.

  • None of the women I had grown up with in Maryland

  • had graduated from college,

  • let alone considered business school.

  • But they had hustled to feed their kids

  • and pay their rent.

  • And I saw from a young age

  • that having a decent job and earning a good living

  • made the biggest difference

  • for families who were struggling.

  • So if you're going to talk about jobs,

  • then you have to talk about entrepreneurs.

  • And if you're talking about entrepreneurs

  • in conflict and post-conflict settings,

  • then you must talk about women,

  • because they are the population you have left.

  • Rwanda in the immediate aftermath of the genocide

  • was 77 percent female.

  • I want to introduce you

  • to some of those entrepreneurs I've met

  • and share with you some of what they've taught me over the years.

  • I went to Afghanistan in 2005

  • to work on a Financial Times piece,

  • and there I met Kamila,

  • a young women who told me she had just turned down

  • a job with the international community

  • that would have paid her nearly $2,000 a month --

  • an astronomical sum in that context.

  • And she had turned it down, she said,

  • because she was going to start her next business,

  • an entrepreneurship consultancy

  • that would teach business skills

  • to men and women all around Afghanistan.

  • Business, she said,

  • was critical to her country's future.

  • Because long after this round of internationals left,

  • business would help keep her country

  • peaceful and secure.

  • And she said business was even more important for women

  • because earning an income earned respect

  • and money was power for women.

  • So I was amazed.

  • I mean here was a girl who had never lived in peace time

  • who somehow had come to sound like a candidate from "The Apprentice."

  • (Laughter)

  • So I asked her, "How in the world do you know this much about business?

  • Why are you so passionate?"

  • She said, "Oh Gayle, this is actually my third business.

  • My first business was a dressmaking business

  • I started under the Taliban.

  • And that was actually an excellent business,

  • because we provided jobs for women all around our neighborhood.

  • And that's really how I became an entrepreneur."

  • Think about this:

  • Here were girls who braved danger

  • to become breadwinners

  • during years in which they couldn't even be on their streets.

  • And at a time of economic collapse

  • when people sold baby dolls and shoe laces

  • and windows and doors

  • just to survive,

  • these girls made the difference

  • between survival and starvation

  • for so many.

  • I couldn't leave the story, and I couldn't leave the topic either,

  • because everywhere I went I met more of these women

  • who no one seemed to know about,

  • or even wish to.

  • I went on to Bosnia,

  • and early on in my interviews I met with an IMF official

  • who said, "You know, Gayle,

  • I don't think we actually have women in business in Bosnia,

  • but there is a lady selling cheese nearby

  • on the side of the road.

  • So maybe you could interview her."

  • So I went out reporting

  • and within a day I met Narcisa Kavazovic

  • who at that point was opening a new factory

  • on the war's former front lines in Sarajevo.

  • She had started her business

  • squatting in an abandoned garage,

  • sewing sheets and pillow cases

  • she would take to markets all around the city

  • so that she could support

  • the 12 or 13 family members

  • who were counting on her for survival.

  • By the time we met, she had 20 employees,

  • most of them women,

  • who were sending their boys and their girls to school.

  • And she was just the start.

  • I met women running essential oils businesses,

  • wineries

  • and even the country's largest advertising agency.

  • So these stories together

  • became the Herald Tribune business cover.

  • And when this story posted,

  • I ran to my computer to send it to the IMF official.

  • And I said, "Just in case you're looking for entrepreneurs

  • to feature at your next investment conference,

  • here are a couple of women."

  • (Applause)

  • But think about this.

  • The IMF official is hardly the only person

  • to automatically file women under micro.

  • The biases, whether intentional or otherwise,

  • are pervasive,

  • and so are the misleading mental images.

  • If you see the word "microfinance,"

  • what comes to mind?

  • Most people say women.

  • And if you see the word "entrepreneur,"

  • most people think men.

  • Why is that?

  • Because we aim low and we think small

  • when it comes to women.

  • Microfinance is an incredibly powerful tool

  • that leads to self-sufficiency and self-respect,

  • but we must move beyond micro-hopes

  • and micro-ambitions for women,

  • because they have so much greater hopes for themselves.

  • They want to move from micro to medium and beyond.

  • And in many places,

  • they're there.

  • In the U.S., women-owned businesses

  • will create five and a half million new jobs by 2018.

  • In South Korea and Indonesia,

  • women own nearly half a million firms.

  • China, women run 20 percent

  • of all small businesses.

  • And in the developing world overall,

  • That figure is 40 to 50 percent.

  • Nearly everywhere I go,

  • I meet incredibly interesting entrepreneurs

  • who are seeking access to finance, access to markets

  • and established business networks.

  • They are often ignored

  • because they're harder to help.

  • It is much riskier to give a 50,000 dollar loan

  • than it is to give a 500 dollar loan.

  • And as the World Bank recently noted,

  • women are stuck in a productivity trap.

  • Those in small businesses

  • can't get the capital they need to expand

  • and those in microbusiness

  • can't grow out of them.

  • Recently I was at the State Department in Washington

  • and I met an incredibly passionate entrepreneur from Ghana.

  • She sells chocolates.

  • And she had come to Washington,

  • not seeking a handout and not seeking a microloan.

  • She had come seeking serious investment dollars

  • so that she could build the factory

  • and buy the equipment she needs

  • to export her chocolates

  • to Africa, Europe, the Middle East

  • and far beyond --

  • capital that would help her to employ

  • more than the 20 people

  • that she already has working for her,

  • and capital that would fuel her own country's

  • economic climb.

  • The great news is

  • we already know what works.

  • Theory and empirical evidence

  • Have already taught us.

  • We don't need to invent solutions because we have them --

  • cash flow loans

  • based in income rather than assets,

  • loans that use secure contracts rather than collateral,

  • because women often don't own land.

  • And Kiva.org, the microlender,

  • is actually now experimenting with crowdsourcing

  • small and medium sized loans.

  • And that's just to start.

  • Recently it has become very much in fashion

  • to call women "the emerging market of the emerging market."

  • I think that is terrific.

  • You know why?

  • Because -- and I say this as somebody who worked in finance --

  • 500 billion dollars at least

  • has gone into the emerging markets in the past decade.

  • Because investors saw the potential for return

  • at a time of slowing economic growth,

  • and so they created financial products

  • and financial innovation

  • tailored to the emerging markets.

  • How wonderful would it be

  • if we were prepared to replace all of our lofty words

  • with our wallets

  • and invest 500 billion dollars

  • unleashing women's economic potential?

  • Just think of the benefits

  • when it comes to jobs, productivity,

  • employment, child nutrition,

  • maternal mortality, literacy

  • and much, much more.

  • Because, as the World Economic Forum noted,

  • smaller gender gaps are directly correlated

  • with increased economic competitiveness.

  • And not one country in all the world

  • has eliminated its economic participation gap --

  • not one.

  • So the great news

  • is this is an incredible opportunity.

  • We have so much room to grow.

  • So you see,

  • this is not about doing good,

  • this is about global growth

  • and global employment.

  • It is about how we invest

  • and it's about how we see women.

  • And women can no longer be

  • both half the population

  • and a special interest group.

  • (Applause)

  • Oftentimes I get into very interesting discussions with reporters

  • who say to me, "Gayle, these are great stories,

  • but you're really writing about the exceptions."

  • Now that makes me pause for just a couple reasons.

  • First of all, for exceptions,

  • there are a lot of them

  • and they're important.

  • Secondly, when we talk about men who are succeeding,

  • we rightly consider them

  • icons or pioneers or innovators

  • to be emulated.

  • And when we talk about women,

  • they are either exceptions to be dismissed

  • or aberrations to be ignored.

  • And finally,

  • there is no society anywhere in all the world

  • that is not changed

  • except by its most exceptional.

  • So why wouldn't we celebrate and elevate

  • these change makers and job creators

  • rather than overlook them?

  • This topic of resilience is very personal to me

  • and in many ways has shaped my life.

  • My mom was a single mom

  • who worked at the phone company during the day

  • and sold Tupperware at night

  • so that I could have every opportunity possible.

  • We shopped double coupons

  • and layaway and consignment stores,

  • and when she got sick with stage four breast cancer

  • and could no longer work,