These women became entrepreneurs and business leaders in a world where women are consistently refused the same access to education, financial service and bank loans as men. Therefore, these 500 companies are also 500 stories about life-changing bravery, independence, role models and gender equality. And there’s a clear business case. By advancing gender equality, USD12 trillion would be added to the global economy by 2025, and women’s economic empowerment is seen as the core contributing factor to overcome poverty.
You can't be what you can't see. The Foundation 500 wants to help change perceptions of what women business leaders from developing countries can achieve and give these role models access to the space and magazine covers usually reserved for the traditional male business leaders — in the traditional style and manner; confident, standing in powerful postures.
With the donation of USD 8,4 million from the non-profit H&M Foundation, the humanitarian organization CARE has provided seed capital and skills training to over 100,000 women in 20 countries. The women of the Foundation 500 are a small fraction of all the women who have started up and expanded their own businesses as part of the global program. The Foundation 500 includes 500 entrepreneurs and companies from 11 countries around the world which are now open for business, producing and selling everything from building bricks to healthy meatballs. But there is so much more to their stories.
To reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality attitudes and policies regarding women entering the workforce has to change. The Foundation 500 is one part of many things needed to achieve change. On a larger scale, H&M Foundation’s goal is to reach 100,000 women in poor communities and contribute to their economic empowerment. This goal was achieved by in 2016. And the next step has just been taken. With support of another USD 154 million, the learnings from the first three years will serve as a foundation for three more years, taking enterprise development for women empowerment to scale.
”If the world is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need a quantum leap in women’s economic empowerment.”