Although still underrepresented in most industries, women are making waves with their work at SMEs around the globe.article
Silicon Valley is still very much a man's world. But as Katharina Borchert is quick to point out while speaking publicly at conferences and in interviews, a study by McKinsey has shown that diversity actually increases a business's success. As Chief Open Innovation Officer at Mozilla, the German-born student of law and media has seen both the US and the German approach to diversity. She says there's a lot to be done in both countries to bring both women and minorities on board in business. In her role at Mozilla, Borchert uses her understanding of innovation practices to assist the open source non-profit behind the Firefox browser in scaling its product and technology projects using cross-industry collaborations and global contributor communities.
When it comes to female entrepreneurship, women in the East African nation of Uganda should not be overlooked. According to the MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs published in 2017, Uganda has the highest percentage of women business owners in the world at 34.8%. Among them is Brenda Katwesigye, founder of Wazi Vision, which has brought vision testing to even the most rural corners of the country and outfitted hundreds of Ugandan children with prescription eyewear. Using both on-site visits to schools and a mobile app to test the children's vision at home, the team customizes eyeglasses for kids between 6 and 18 at a fraction of the usual cost. "The best thing I have learnt is to always keep your business simple," Katwesigye told Lionesses of Africa, a website highlighting Africa's women entrepreneurs. "The most satisfying thing about being an entrepreneur," said Katwesigye, "are the small contributions we can make to other people's lives."
A woman is still a rarity on German corporate boards; just 50 women are in these leading roles, compared with 636 men. One of those women is Karin Parken, who was named Chief HR Officer at adidas Group after working her way up through the company. Parken started with adidas as Sales Director in 1997 and took on other functions that included acting as senior VP of the company’s supply chain division before being promoted to Chief HR Officer. Although she is the only woman on the board at the moment, Parken said in an interview with PERSONALquarterly, a German magazine, that gender parity in every division in the company is their aim. "The question for me is how we can ensure we get more female talents in more senior executive roles." To that end, adidas has instituted programs aimed at enabling its employees to balance family and work life, including off-campus working and day care programs.
Afghanistan has the highest gender disparity in the world. With nearly half of all women married before the age of 18, completing even a high school education is the exception, not the norm. Yet the country is filled with women entrepreneurs, and women who help women help themselves, economically speaking. One of them is Fakhria Momtaz, who founded Momtaz Hosts, an IT and internet services company in Kabul. Skilled in all areas of the web, Momtaz told Fast Company in 2016 that she hoped to pass on those skills to other young women through a training center hosted at her firm. The plan is to accommodate up to 100 women in learning coding and programming, something that would have been unheard of just two decades ago. “We want to show them a clear future and let them know they are stronger than the men who try to bully them out of the field,” she told Fast Company.
As President and CEO of the IT company Softtek, Blanca Treviño has made a name for herself as an innovator -- in both a field and a country where women are still underrepresented in the workforce. She got her start at the company 30 years ago, before NAFTA opened up the cross-border markets that helped Softtek bloom. Under her leadership since 2000, Softtek has become the leading provider of Latin America’s IT services. With a focus on near-shoring, she’s ensured that jobs stay closer to home, increasing employment in her native Mexico.
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