MADURAI Chairperson Jeevagan, Mr. Subramaniam, esteemed colleagues on the dais, Members of the Women Entrepreneurs wing of Tami Nadu Chamber, honorees, and ladies and gentlemen, good morning! I am delighted to be back in the beautiful and historic city of Madurai and honored to participate with you in recognizing the outstanding women of Madurai during Women’s history month.
And what better place to celebrate International Women’s Day than in a city which has as one of its symbols, Meenakshi the epitome of a strong leader and administrator.
“Inspiring Change” is the theme of International Women’s Day 2014. And at the forefront of inspiring – and affecting change are you, our countries’ entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship is a key area of partnership between the U.S. and India – and we see evidence everyday of great collaborations between our innovators, academics, and business people to develop new ideas and solutions that bring services to a broader and more inclusive range of consumers, and breed prosperity through jobs for our people. And our countries’ women entrepreneurs will be key contributors in the upcoming decade for continuing this trajectory of economic growth and inclusivity.
Our former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, a great champion for greater empowerment for women world-wide, was a tremendous advocate for encouraging a greater role for women in business. She noted on repeated occasions that “When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations and, indeed, the world.”
We are seeing the truth of her statement in my own country. Today, in the U.S., women comprise half the workforce and own close to 8 million businesses, accounting for $1.2 trillion of our gross domestic problem.
And much of the future job growth in the United States will be created largely by women-owned small businesses. By 2018, U.S. women entrepreneurs are expected to create between 5 to 5.5 million new jobs in the U.S. And studies consistently show that women heavily contribute back to their communities and societies improving the lives of those around them as well. What holds true about women entrepreneurs in the U.S., holds true for India as well.
As U.S. Consul General in South India for two and half years, I have been introduced a range of extraordinary women across careers fields and civil society. And many of these extraordinary people have been the women entrepreneurs in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala – in places like Chennai, Trichy, Coimbatore, and of course, here in Madurai.
I and my U.S. Consulate team have been proud to be part of initiatives to further promote women’s entrepreneurship in South India.
Last year, the U.S. State Department hosted the South Asian Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium in Dhaka, Bangladesh to help support this potential in the South Asia region, and I’m really pleased that of the fourteen participants from India three were from South India, and the group was accompanied by one of my Consulate officers.
As just one of the concrete outcomes of the 2013 Symposium, the 14 participants from India are working to create a web portal where women entrepreneurs can market their products and connect with other entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Consulate has also sponsored a number of women entrepreneurs on our International Visitor Leadership Programs to the U.S. on programs helping them expand their networks and grow their businesses.
The U.S. Consulate strongly supports the promotion of women leaders in general, and in fact, over the last three years, over 50% of our IVLP nominees have been women who participate in programs ranging from social justice, to cyber security to combating international crime.
In addition to the IVLP exchange program, the U.S. State Department’s Fortune/Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership connects talented, emerging women leaders from all over the world with members of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Leaders in the United States for a month-long mentorship program. Last year, our Consulate’s nominee – an entrepreneur from Kochi – was selected for this fantastic initiative.
Over the last three years, the U.S. Consulate has also been privileged to partner with a number of South India’s businesswomen and entrepreneurs to host roundtables with aspiring women students – perhaps our most important investment in our collective future – and in highlighting great collaborations by other entities, such as the “10,000 Women” initiative of U.S. company Goldman Sachs in partnership with India’s School of Business
which has provided training and mentoring to hundreds of India’s women owners of small businesses.
This program has yielded impressive results in helping these entrepreneurs expand their businesses increase profits, and created new jobs within their community.
Today, I’m thrilled to be part of this celebration in Madurai recognizing the 20 outstanding individual nominees who are making such a difference in your community. I congratulate the nominees on their accomplishments and WE for highlighting these individuals who across various fields are truly inspiring change.