Third Billion Campaign: the Emerging Economic Power of Women

Last week, the La Pietra Coalition launched a major new global initiative, the Third Billion Campaign, aimed at expanding women’s employment, access to finance, markets and education. A coalition of business leaders, NGOs, former government officials, economists and commentators (I’m proud to be in their ranks) is spearheading the decade long campaign to galvanize corporations and NGO’s all over the world to tap into women’s economic potential as employees, entrepreneurs, producers and consumers.

In making the announcement Sandra Taylor, Senior Director of La Pietra Coalition, and the driving force behind the Third Billion Campaign said, “The evidence is clear: women are the emerging market with the greatest potential for accelerating global economic growth over the next decade. Investing in women will transform their lives and lead to prosperity for their families, their communities and for business globally.” In other words: if women’s economic potential can be successfully harnessed and leveraged, it would be the equivalent of having an additional one billion individuals in business and in the workforce, contributing to the global economy: often referred to as the “third billion.”

The launch of the Third Billion Campaign, which will properly prepare and enable women, in both developing, emerging and industrialized nations,—whose economic lives have been stunted, under-leveraged or suppressed has the support and participation of major global corporations including The Coca- Cola Company, Ernst and Young, Accenture and Standard Chartered Bank, as well as the World Bank.

I’ve watched the La Pietra Coalition (a project of Vital Voices, which encourages women’s leadership around the world) wrangle with creating real momentum for this crucial issue – especially in terms of hard economic data and the world agenda. I’ve taken part in two of the three meetings at NYU’s amazing Villa la Pietra campus in Florence, and the energy and vital ideas on display at those gatherings was inspiring. I think that the significance of the Third Billion Campaign, and those who are supporting it, is an indication of the power of women and the difference they can make in economic growth.

The Third Billion Campaign was a result of work carried out by Booz & Company’s analysis of International Labor Organization data on women in the global workforce. The Booz report determined that approximately 860 million women worldwide are “not prepared” – lacking sufficient secondary education – and/or “not enabled” – lacking support from families and communities – to take part in the world economy. The vast majority of these women, between the ages of 20 and 65 – 822 million – live in emerging and developing countries and the rest – 47 million – live in North America, Western Europe and Japan. Counting female births and those under age twenty, this number will add up to a billion in the next decade.

Beth Brooke, global vice chair of Ernst and Young, does a brilliant job of explaining the importance of the campaign in this Bloomberg TV interview: