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Investing in Women’s Economic Development is a Growth Driver

“Women are paving their own way to success. But we need 100% of the population, to realize, act upon and understand that our success translates into growth for all.”

By: LUCIENNE GIGANTE

We’ve heard it many times. Investing in women is good business.

I’ve worked and developed economic development programs for women for more than ten years and I’ve witnessed how capital, resources and mentoring are significant drivers of growth. These ingredients can boost growth to any business, but if taken seriously by the government and private sector, investing in women’s economic development has the power to transform family units, communities, towns and countries.

Last year, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund talked about this in a speech in Los Angeles.

“We know — based on a wealth of research and experience — that empowering women can be an economic game changer for any country. For instance, if women were to participate in the labor force to the same extent as men, national income could increase by 5 percent in the U.S., 9 percent in Japan, and 27 percent in India. Equal pay and better economic opportunities for women boost economic growth — creating a bigger pie for everyone to share, women and men alike. Better opportunities for women also promote diversity and reduce economic inequality around the world. It is an economic no-brainer.”

We’ve read the studies and seen the data. Companies with women are part of the leadership team, perform better. As a business case, it should be a no brainer.

As business leaders, aren’t we leaving money on the table by not including 50% of the population in key decisions that impact our bottom lines?

As citizens, aren’t we shutting down opportunities by not involving 50% of the population in matters that impact our daily life, health and education?

Let’s work together — men and women — to advance the 50% and bring them to the table.

Betting on women’s economic development is a key solution to our economic transformation.

Which brings me to my beloved Puerto Rico, where I was born and live today.

I bet you’ve heard about Puerto Rico and seen how nature’s wrath has taken away so much.

You’ve heard it from beloved public figures such as Lin Manuel, Ricky Martin and JLo. You’ve also heard from other voices not as known, but closer to you, including friends, acquaintances, and even friends who have family in Puerto Rico, especially if you live in New York or Florida, where many Puerto Ricans live. We are some 3million in the island, but close to 6 million in the US mainland.

These voices vary. Some hopeful, some in dismay, and some distraught. But the reality is even before the hit of two hurricanes, we were entering the 11th year of a deep recession.

In Puerto Rico, 60% of women in the labor force heads of households and live below poverty levels. At the same time, women are also opening up businesses at a fast rate and there are double the number of college educated women as there are men. As it is, Latina-owned businesses created 550,400 jobs and contributed over $97 billon in revenues to the U.S. economy in 2015 — and they are projected to be nearly a third of the total U.S. population by 2060. Minorities and women represent the fastest growing segment of consumers and of entrepreneurs in the United States. Latina-owned firms comprise 46% of all Latino-owned firms, according to The 2016 State Of Women-Owned Business Report.

That is why we founded Animus Summit: A Women’s Innovation Platform. Animus opens doors, connects and provides the opportunity to listen to great stories — of both failure and success — to guide people of all ages and career stages to their next stage of growth.

Animus is the largest female innovation summit of the Americas designed to inspire women to take action to reach their highest level of personal and professional development. It’s an innovation platform designed to maximize women’s economic and personal development around business, mindfulness, empowerment, and entrepreneurship. It offers introductions to capital opportunities, a marketplace for local brands to showcase their products and workshops for personal development in San Juan. We also offer a pitch competition where women-owned companies can get access and FaceTime to investors.

Hailing over 1,000 women in attendance, up from 600 women in 2015, we’ve seen tremendous growth in such little time. Animus will provide insights, ideas, perspective and strategies to develop or hone an entrepreneurial mindset.

Women are paving their own way to success. But we need 100% of the population, to realize, act upon and understand that our success translates into growth for all.

About Lucienne Gigante

For more than a decade, Lucienne Gigante has created initiatives for women’s economic development, both in Puerto Rico and the continental United States. An expert in communications and strategic positioning, Lucienne founded LuGi, LLC, to help companies integrate communities as part of their business model, creating both positive business results and benefits for the communities in which they operate. Lucienne co-founded Animus, a Women’s Innovation Journey, the largest platform for women’s innovation, personal and professional growth in the Americas. She is also co-founder of AccessLatina, a nonprofit organization and the first multi-market platform that provides capital and resources to entrepreneurial women in high growth industries. Lucienne has received more than 50 awards in Puerto Rico and the U.S. for her management of communication, crisis management and creating programs that have a high impact on society, including the American Banking Association’s “Social Impact Award”, SME’s “Top Management Award” and PR News’ “Community Person of the Year”. She was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg to the Council of the Environment of New York City and the Puerto Rico Senate has honored her work.