I love that the world has International Women’s Day to celebrate my gender’s achievements globally. On the flip side, I think we should also view this day as a reminder of how far women still have to go in achieving equality with men in areas such as business, government, education and health.
Through my work with Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™, I’m involved in innovative projects that use mobile technology to empower women—particularly women in underserved communities. I had an exciting opportunity to discuss some of these projects while participating in a panel discussion, “Leveraging Technology for Access and Impact,” during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s International Women’s Day Forum at Microsoft’s research facility in the heart of New York’s Times Square. Joining me on the panel were some very interesting female leaders from Intel, SABMiller Latin America and Korngold Consulting LLC.
In keeping with the forum’s theme, “The Empowerment Bridge: Building a Lifetime of Opportunity For Women and Girls,” I shared how Wireless Reach uses mobile technology as a lever to bridge economic opportunity gaps and empower women to lift themselves out of poverty.
For example, our Mentoring Women in Business program, implemented in collaboration with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Tune Talk Mobile Prepaid and the Foundation for Women’s Education and Vocational Training, uses advanced wireless technologies to connect women entrepreneurs in Malaysia with mentors who are skilled business professionals from around the world. Because the purpose of this program is to help the women grow and maintain their own businesses, the women also receive intensive ICT, business and English training.
I am thrilled by this program’s success. So far, nearly all of the women who have completed the training and have been matched with a mentor report that this program has helped them build their small businesses, confidence, skills and networks.
In another case, our Mobile Microfranchising and Application Laboratory initiatives, implemented in Indonesia in collaboration with Grameen Foundation and Ruma, provide entrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid with microfinance loans to start their own businesses selling mobile phone-based services to their neighbors.
I’m happy to say that this program is another qualified success. At last count, more than 15,000 entrepreneurs—82 percent of whom are women—involved in the project are profitable. Approximately half of the entrepreneurs who stay in the program at least four months are able to lift themselves out of poverty and double their income.
People often ask, what’s your secret formula for making these projects viable and sustainable? No secrets here. It’s all about forming committed business collaborations with like-minded organizations who have valuable expertise to offer as well as with governments that recognize how upping women’s participation in the workforce contributes to their nation’s economy and advancement. Providing localized content that’s relevant for the program’s participants is also key. Together, we’re not just building a bridge to opportunity for women. We’re also ensuring that the bridge will be well-traveled.
To learn more about the Wireless Reach initiative, please visit our web site.