A week from today, a new “day” hits the calendar in the increasingly consumer and cause-themed week after Thanksgiving.
Of course, it all spins off from the consumer madness of Black Friday through the recently themed extended weekend themes of Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and GivingTuesday. Women on Wednesday builds on the creation of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, which unfolded at the United Nations last week and brought together a group of activists, philanthropists, corporate leaders, civil society and nonprofit executives to support the growth in businesses owned by women around the world.
“We have to get the world to understand the importance of supporting more women in business,” said WED founder Wendy Diamond, a social entrepreneur who is also a leading animal rights activist. Diamond explained that effort, supported by the UN Foundation as well as companies like PWC, Nestle, Microsoft and BNP Paribas, convenes leaders with a focus on global investment and entrepreneurship, while following the traditional Thanksgiving shopping fest with a message aimed at mobilizing U.S. consumers.
“How in our culture are we not supporting more women owned businesses?” she asked, rattling off some interesting statistics used by WED in their materials: according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap report, the U.S. has experienced 11 percent growth over the last 40 years as a direct result of the increased participation of women, which has translated into $3.5 trillion. In addition, the number of $10-million-plus women-owned firms increased by 57 percent — a growth rate nearly 50% more than larger enterprises – and grew more than 40% from the previous year, according to the Center of Venture Research.
All very promising: and quite frankly, this builds on the growing call to create a “gender lens” to areas like investing and philanthropy – echoing, for example, the imperative of the philanthropic organization Women Moving Millions earlier this year. It’s part of a movement that goes beyond simple calls for equality in order to use economic pressure and financial power to bring about social change. And, according to Diamond, the upside is a big one.
“By supporting women in business we know what that means to the economy, to the quality of education, to the ability to take care of children,” she said. “We know that women tend to reinvest in their communities.”
Next Wednesday’s effort is more virtual than anything else – the goal is to “gain awareness and gain traction this year,” said Diamond. But in future years, the Wednesday after Thanksgiving may indeed push that focus on gender and equality into the marketplace.
“We have to give more women the confidence to step up,” said Tamara Mellon, founder of Jimmy Choo LTD, at the UN last week. “We know that economies are safer with women leaders. We know that companies are more profitable when women are involved. So it really really is supporting women who believe in themselves.”