The Business of Empowering Women

McKinsey & Company
Resource Type: 
Publication Date: 
Jan, 2010

Our overarching goal is to inform private sector leaders about the potential impact of women’s economic empowerment in developing countries and emerging markets, increase their understanding of some of the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing these women, and ultimately inspire them to action.

This work is a further contribution to the mission of McKinsey & Company’s Social Sector Office: to help the world’s leading organizations develop and scale up solutions to major societal challenges, and to bring the best of our capabilities to generate tailored solutions and to spur partnerships across the public, private, and social sectors.

McKinsey & Company (McKinsey) is a member organization of the Global Private Sector Leaders Forum (PSLF), an initiative of the World Bank Group’s Gender Action Plan to promote women’s economic empowerment. Our team collaborated with the PSLF’s core staff and a number of member companies to complete this white paper.

For the purposes of this white paper, private sector engagement includes any activity undertaken to strengthen women’s economic empowerment – from business practices that contribute to advancing the status of women to advocacy and philanthropic efforts with an explicit gender component. We define the private sector to include publicly traded and privately held enterprises, business partnerships, and corporate foundations. Our primary focus is on large companies with operations, or expressed interest, in developing countries and emerging markets.

This paper draws on insights from interviews with more than 50 leaders and experts in the private and social sectors who focus on women’s economic empowerment. Our work was further informed by a global survey of nearly 2,300 senior private sector executives conducted in May 2009 through the McKinsey Quarterly executive panel. The survey solicited respondents’ views on their organizations’ current and prospective involvement in women’s economic empowerment in developing countries and emerging markets.

We have also drawn on McKinsey’s existing research, perspectives, and data on economic development and on women’s role in formal and informal economies. Publications consulted include: Women Matter: Gender Diversity, a Corporate Performance Driver; Women Matter 2: Female Leadership, a Competitive Edge for the Future; and Centered Leadership: How Talented Women Thrive.

Many experts, leaders, and conveners in this field were generous with their time and provided valuable input to our research. They are listed in the "Acknowledgements" section, but we make special note of the contributions and guidance of Mayra Buvinic and Amanda Ellis, and their teams at the World Bank and PSLF.

As with all McKinsey research, results and conclusions are based on the unique outlook and experience base that McKinsey experts bring to bear. This perspective is independent, and this white paper has not been financially supported by any business, government, or other institution.

Workforce Development
Enterprise Development
Economic Empowerment
Market Development