About the Author: Wenchi Yu serves in the Office of Global Women's Issues.
In a time of ongoing economic uncertainty, one thing is sure: entrepreneurs and small businesses represent critical sources of economic growth and innovation, and women have the opportunity to lead the way.
This week, around 250 policymakers and businesswomen from across 21 economies in the Asia Pacific region are gathering in Gifu, Japan to unleash the power of women entrepreneurs. Under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and on the margins of the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Ministerial Meeting, the United States and Japan will co-host the APEC Women's Entrepreneurship Summit on October 1, 2010.
The day will include keynote sessions on topics such as "Engendering Entrepreneurship in the Asia Pacific Region" and "Public-Private Partnerships to Close the Gender Gap for Economic Growth." But the emphasis of the Summit is not on speeches and panels but on practical skill-building and the sharing of best practices for policymakers and women entrepreneurs from Australia to Vietnam. Break-out sessions that focus on increasing women's access to economic opportunities will include how to leverage technology to lower costs, how to reach new markets, and how to access capital.
A recently published UN report notes that Asia-Pacific economies are losing an estimated USD 42-46 billion annually due to the lack of women in the workforce. A 2005 Goldman Sachs report found that Japan could lift its trend growth GDP from 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent by bringing more women into the workforce. This APEC Women's Entrepreneurship Summit is an opportunity to develop the untapped potential of women to contribute to civic and economic life.