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Academy for Women Entrepreneurs to Reach 50 Countries

March 17, 2020

U.S. Department of State, Thunderbird, and Freeport-McMoRan reinforce commitment to women’s economic empowerment

The economic impact of women-owned businesses is undeniable, from the trillions in revenue they contribute to the millions of jobs they create. 

In the United States, the number of businesses owned by women in 2018 increased 21 percent, while all businesses increased just 9 percent.

A collaboration between the U.S. Department of State, Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, and the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation is hoping to contribute to similar success for women-owned businesses on a global scale. 

The collaboration will support the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) and its efforts to advance women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. And this partnership is committed to backing women entrepreneurs because when they win, we all win.

Signing Ceremony in Phoenix

Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce, ASU President Michael Crow, and Freeport-McMoRan Foundation President Tracy Bame signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently in Phoenix. The MOU represents a commitment to developing the skills of prospective women entrepreneurs, through the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), by utilizing the DreamBuilder online learning program, which was jointly developed by Freeport-McMoRan and Thunderbird.

“AWE is a proven and successful global program empowering women entrepreneurs,” said Assistant Secretary Royce. “We’ve been inspired by AWE stories around the world and are excited to expand the program to over 50 countries this year with the support of key partnerships like this one.”

“ ‘We’ve been inspired by AWE stories around the world and are excited to expand the program to over 50 countries.’ ~ Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of State” – Click to tweet

Quick Success and Growth 

In 2019, the State Department’s Educational and Cultural Affairs group created and launched AWE to support the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. In its inaugural year, AWE was implemented in 26 countries across Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, as well as Spain and Papua New Guinea to reach over 2,000 women. 

AWE is designed as an educational opportunity for prospective women entrepreneurs and early-stage business owners that uses the DreamBuilder platform to teach fundamental business skills. 

“U.S. Department of State, Arizona State University, and Freeport-McMoRan reinforce commitment to women’s economic empowerment.” – Click to tweet

Participants form cohorts that meet in person to network and learn from one another.  Follow the AWE’s global women entrepreneurs on Facebook – Academy of Women.

Facilitators, chosen from successful Educational and Cultural Affairs alumni, business leaders, or other experts, lead sessions to localize business principles and ensure application of lessons learned in real-time.  In each country where AWE exists, trade fairs, expositions, additional training, and other relevant engagements build on the AWE-experience to foster business development and momentum for future growth.

AWE is built around three main goals: 

  • to provide online educational resources, 
  • to foster networks that support access to mentorships, and 
  • to connect women through existing mentor exchange programs. 

Resources, Networks, Mentors, Success 

The underrepresentation of women in business has been a missed opportunity for both the global economy and society. And certainly it’s a missed opportunity for the women themselves. But that is changing.  

“The face of entrepreneurship is evolving to include all women, regardless of demographics. Even more impressive is that women are starting businesses on their own terms – whether it be their full-time focus or a part time activity,” said Courtney Kelso, Senior Vice President of American Express. 

The annual American Express-funded report on women entrepreneurs based on U.S. Census Bureau data adjusted by Gross Domestic Product data, found that women-owned businesses continue to trend above all businesses. Over the past five years:

  • The number of women-owned businesses increased 21%, while all businesses increased only 9%.
  • Total employment by women-owned businesses rose 8%, while for all businesses the increase was far lower at 1.8%.
  • Total revenue for women-owned businesses also rose slightly above all businesses: 21% compared to 20% respectively.

While female-run enterprises are steadily growing all over the world, contributing to household incomes and growth of national economies, women still face challenges in maintaining successful enterprises due to lack of funding, fewer skills, and social constraints.

That’s where AWE’s global network steps in. AWE is built to be sustainable by taking advantage of the State Department’s global network of embassies. Localized partnerships around the world will amplify the course experience and provide opportunities for women to continue advancing as leading entrepreneurs.

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