08/11/2014 11:44 EDT | Updated 10/11/2014 05:59 EDT

Entrepreneurship Is Key to Accelerating the Full Economic Inclusion of Women and Girls

In a post-recession period when most industrialized nations' economies are still fragile and ''in recovery mode'', one of the top priorities for the G20 leaders is finding innovative solutions that will allow them to stay competitive and prosperous. Last February, G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors made a commitment to develop new measures aimed at raising the level of G20 output by at least two per cent above the current projected levels over the next five years.

I strongly believe that in the struggle toward reaching this target, the G20 leaders will need to invest in a valuable resource that, so far, has not been fully tapped. This resource makes up half of a country's human capital - girls and women. Since human resources are a nation's main asset, a simple, yet smart and strategic way to boost Gross Domestic Product would be to harness the education, skills and talents of girls and women around the world.


To do so, G20 leaders must place a focus on encouraging and supporting female entrepreneurship. Women entrepreneurs have a lot to bring to the market in terms of ideas, energy and innovation. I believe a serious commitment should be made by the G20 leaders to place this at the top of their agendas. A great way to foster female entrepreneurship would be to create programs that pair aspiring female entrepreneurs with established business leaders who will guide them through the process of acquiring the skills and connections they need in order to start and successfully run their own ventures. Governments should also work to eliminate some of the red tape that makes it difficult for girls and women to gain access to capital, or provide seed money that can facilitate the launch of new projects.

The valuable derivatives of female entrepreneurship are numerous -- not only do successful businesses generate products and services that help solve problems, but they also contribute significantly to the economy and support other people's livelihoods through the creation of jobs. For example, according to the World Bank, women-owned firms in the United States are growing at more than double the rate of all other firms; bringing almost $3 trillion to the economy and are also directly responsible for 23 million jobs.


Ultimately, while they make up half of the world's population; there are 865 million women globally who are unable to fully participate in their countries' economies; this is what Christine Lagarde called "almost a blocked billion". I believe that the full participation of women and girls will be a critical factor in fuelling economic recovery and progress, and that fostering female entrepreneurship will be a critical step toward reaching this ambitious goal.

By Estelle Ah-Kiow, delegate representing Canada at the G(irls)20 Summit 2014