Hyderabad: Ivanka Trump, US president Donald Trump's daughter and advisor to the White House, on Tuesday said Indian economy can grow by over $150 billion in the next three years if it was able to close the labor force gender gap by half. She pitched for access to capital and equitable laws for women entrepreneurs, saying closing the gender entrepreneurship gap could grow global GDP by up to 2 per cent.
In her keynote address at the 8th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), she said that despite the soaring rate of female entrepreneurs, women still face steep obstacles to starting, owning, and growing their businesses.
"Fueling the growth of women-led businesses isn't simply good for our society -- it's good for our economy. One study estimates that closing the gender entrepreneurship gap worldwide could grow our global GDP by as much as 2 per cent," she said.
Ivanka, 36, a businesswoman, fashion designer and the eldest daughter of the US president, was invited by prime minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the White House in June to speak at the Summit. She is leading the US contingent at the Summit themed 'Women First, Prosperity for All'.
She opened her speech by stressing how all over the world entrepreneurs are "revolutionizing our economies, and improving our societies".
"You are rewriting the rules," she said and went on to talk about this year's GES theme. "This year's Summit is focused on a theme that is key to our future: Women First, Prosperity For All. I am proud that for the first time ever, women make up the majority of the 1,500 entrepreneurs selected to attend."
Women, according to Ivanka, can help lead the way in closing this gap and ushering in a new age of greater prosperity. "We must ensure women entrepreneurs have access to capital, access to networks and mentors, and access to equitable laws," she added.
While her trip to India has been hogging media limelight, questions have been raised about whether her message of empowering poor women matches her actions.
Critics have faulted her for failing to use her leadership role to call out labor and human rights abuses and her refusal take a public stand on alleged abuses in her brand's own supply chain.
The Associated Press in a news report today said a September investigation by it "showed that Trump's supply chain has become more opaque than ever since she took on her White House role, making it impossible to know who her company is doing business with around the world. The brand has said supply chains are the responsibility of its licensees".
In her speech at the GES, Ivanka highlighted what the US is doing to reverse the trend. "The US Small Business Administration, for example, increased its lending to women by over 500 million dollars this year alone," she emphasized.
The US administration is fostering mentorship through programs such as SCORE -- a nation-wide initiative where successful men and women coach those who want to become their own CEOs.
"Our Administration is striving to promote greater opportunity for women around the world, both through our domestic reforms and our international initiatives," she said.
At the G20 conference, the United States was a founding member of a bold, new initiative with the World Bank the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, or WeFi. This facility provides access to capital, networks, and mentorship for women in developing countries.
"At home, our administration is committed to empowering women entrepreneurs through domestic reforms. In the past 11 months, we have expanded apprenticeship programs and prioritized STEM education to ensure that women -- and men -- have more opportunities to master the skills that drive progress in the 21st century," she stated.
The US has dramatically reduced job-crushing regulations which disproportionately hurt entrepreneurs and small business owners.
"And we are laser-focused on passing long overdue tax cuts. This will provide the much-needed relief to working families and businesses of all sizes," she said, adding that this year, the President's Budget included a proposal to establish a nation-wide program for paid family leave.
"We are committed to supporting women, and men, who work, inside and outside of the home," Ivanka added.
In the last decade, the USAID has promoted women entrepreneurship through a number of programmes, including providing micro-finance loans to women in Afghanistan, and bringing Internet access to women in Nigeria and Kenya.
She concluded by highlighting the inspirational stories of some of the entrepreneurs in attendance.
Ivanka praises Modi
During her speech, Ivanka showered lavish praise on prime minister Narendra Modi who is "doing to build India as a thriving economy - a beacon of democracy - and a symbol of hope to the world. What you are achieving is truly extraordinary".
"What you are achieving is truly extraordinary... from your childhood selling tea to election as India's prime minister," she said.
"Through your own enterprise, entrepreneurship and hard work, the people of India have lifted more than 130 million citizens out of poverty -- a remarkable improvement, and one I know will continue to grow under the leadership of prime minister," Ivanka said further.
"Here in India, I want to applaud prime minister Narendra Modi for his firm belief that 'the progress of humanity is incomplete without the empowerment of women'," she stressed.
India, she said, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and has a true friend in the White House.