Ivanka Trump, advisor and daughter of President Donald Trump, described the hurdles faced by women during her Nov. 28 speech at the Eighth Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, held this year in Hyderabad.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also focused his speech at the GES on the contributions Indian women have made to their country. The theme of the three-day summit — “Women First, Prosperity for All” — was aimed on supporting female entrepreneurs to take their ideas to the next level. The summit featured panels with global business leaders, opportunities for networking and mentoring, and workshops. More than 1,200 people attended the events.
In her speech, televised throughout India, Trump noted Modi’s humble beginnings. “From your childhood selling tea to your election as India's prime minister, you've proven that transformational change is possible. And now you are bringing that promise to hundreds of millions of people across your country.”
“What you are achieving is truly extraordinary,” said Trump, who led the U.S. delegation to the summit. Indian American women — including Purnima Voria, founder and CEO of the National U.S.-India Chamber of Commerce; Sangeeta Agarawal, CEO and founder of Helpsy Health; and venture capitalist Shelly Kapoor Collins, founder of the Shatter Fund — accompanied the president’s daughter.
Agarawal was critical of Trump’s presence at GES. “It’s now being called Ivanka Trump’s summit. It totally overshadows all our work,” she told The Associated Press. “We feel that’s it become more about her.”
Trump noted that her father’s administration has fostered female entrepreneurship in the U.S. “Our administration is advancing policies that enable women to pursue their careers and care for their families, policies that improve workforce development and skills training, and policies that lift government barriers and fuel entrepreneurship so that Americans can turn their dreams into their incredible legacies,” she said, noting the importance of mentorship and the challenges women face in finding a mentor who will guide them to success.
In developing countries, 70 percent of women-owned small and medium-sized businesses are denied access to capital. The result has been a nearly $300 billion annual credit deficit for women entrepreneurs in the developing world, noted Trump, adding that in the U.S., women in 2016 received less than three percent of venture capital funding.
“We are working to reverse this trend,” said Trump, noting that the U.S. Small Business Administration has increased its lending to women by over $500 million dollars this year alone. She also noted that the U.S. was a founder of the World Bank Initiative, WeFi, which provides access to capital, networks, and mentorship for women in developing countries.
Trump also noted that her father’s administration has expanded apprenticeship programs and prioritized STEM education to bring more skilled labor into the U.S. workforce.
In the developing world, women are not allowed to own property, travel freely, or work without the consent of their husbands, claimed Trump, adding that in many countries, “The cultural and family pressure is so great that women do not feel the freedom to work outside the home.”
“Here in India, I want to applaud Prime Minister Modi for his firm belief that ‘the progress of humanity is incomplete without the empowerment of women.’ Just consider, if India closes the labor-force gender gap by half, your economy could grow by over $150 billion dollars in the next three years,” proclaimed Trump.
“As we kick off this three-day Summit, I encourage everyone here today to come together, to learn from each other, and to find new ways to lift the barriers in our societies so that women are free to innovate, empowered to succeed, and able to leave our children a brighter future,” she said.
Trump introduced several women entrepreneurs, including Rajlakshmi Borthakur of Bangalore who has developed a smart glove that predicts, manages, and detects different diseases and disorders using Artificial Intelligence. Borthakur developed the glove to better manage the health of her son who suffers from seizures.
Modi cited the presence of female leaders in Hindu spirituality, invoking the goddess Shakti. He noted the achievements of Indian women in sports, adding that Hyderabad is home to athletic luminaries including badminton players Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu, and tennis champ Sania Mirza.
Three out of the four oldest High Courts in India are now headed by women judges, said Modi, also highlighting the achievements of Indian American astronauts Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams. He noted that women are well represented in village panchayats and that more than 60 percent of workers in agriculture and allied sectors are women.
Modi lauded the achievements of his administration, including many initiatives designed to foster entrepreneurship and investment from abroad.
“An investment-friendly environment needs to be stable from the macro-economic perspective. We have succeeded in containing the fiscal and current account deficits, and curbing inflation. Our foreign exchange reserves have crossed 400 billion dollars, and we continue to attract large foreign capital flows,” noted the prime minister, uncharacteristically speaking in English.
“To my young entrepreneur friends from India, I would like to say: each of you has something valuable to contribute towards creating a New India by 2022. You are vehicles of change and instruments of India’s transformation.”
“To my entrepreneur friends from across the globe, I would like to say: Come, Make in India, Invest in India — for India, and for the world. I invite each one of you to become a partner in India’s growth story. And once again assure you of our whole-hearted support,” he said.
The first day of the summit featured a panel discussion, moderated by the executive chairman of Cisco John Chambers, who now heads up the newly-formed U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum. Panelists included Trump; Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman; Marcus Wallenberg, chairman of Saab and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken; and Sibongile Sambo, a former airline hostess who founded SRS Aviation & SRS Petroleum.
Chambers stressed the importance of women entrepreneurs for bringing diversity, creativity, and innovation to the workforce and why startups and small businesses will drive innovation and create new jobs. He also stressed the importance of public-private partnerships as vessels to work together and create an attractive business environment to encourage innovation and break down barriers.
Following the GES plenary panel, Chambers, along with USISPF president Mukesh Aghi, led a meeting between the USISPF industry delegation and Modi. The delegation included CEOs from Amway, Cognizant, General Atomics and senior executives from Amazon, Dell, Lockheed Martin, Abbott, Intel, and Salesforce.
“India has come so far in the last three years and the vision of your prime minister is truly coming through,” Chambers said at the meeting.
“Prime Minister Modi has demonstrated great leadership throughout his time in office. He has had the courage to take major risks — such as demonetization to reduce corruption and digitize payments, along with the Good and Services Tax, which will streamline India’s patchwork tax system and make it easier to do business between states,” said Aghi.
A panel discussion Nov. 29 — moderated by Telangana’s superstar IT minister K.T. Rama Rao — included panelist Cherie Blair, the wife of former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, and founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Other panelists included Chanda Kochhar, ICICI Bank managing director and CEO; Ivanka Trump; and Karen Quintos, Chief Customer Officer at Dell EMC.
The Associated Press reports: The cleanup of Hyderabad began a month ahead of the conference, when the city began rounding up several hundred homeless people and beggars.
Officials said the drive against begging was launched because two international events were taking place in the city — the entrepreneurship summit and the World Telugu Conference in December. Begging is a criminal offense in India and can be punished by as much as 10 years in prison, although the law is rarely enforced.
Beggars tend to crowd around cars at traffic signals, knocking on windows and asking for food and money. They include children as young as five, who weave through dangerous traffic and often perform small acrobatic acts.
“It’s cool that she’s coming,” said Amani Bhugati, a medical student, before the speech. “She’s glamorous, beautiful and powerful. It’s like a combination of Hollywood and politics.”
Others marveled at the improvements made around Hyderabad. “All new,” said Gopal, a taxi driver who gave only his first name.
But he also pointed to the potholes that remain on many smaller streets. “She’s not coming here, so they didn’t fix it,” he said.
IANS adds that Trump, Nov. 29 in a session on the second day of the GES, called for closing the gender gap in workforce by providing women better access to capital and ensuring better representation in high-value industries.
She underlined the need for more progressive policies to address the stagnation, which set in a decade ago, in closing the gender gap. She also noted that women dominate those sectors of the economy that are undervalued financially.
The session on ‘We can do it! Innovations in Workforce Development and Skills Training” had Cherie Blair, founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women; Chanda Kochhar, managing director and CEO, ICICI Bank and Karen Quintos, chief customer officer, Dell EMC as the other panelists.
Telangana's Minister for Information Technology, Industries and Commerce K.T. Rama Rao was the moderator.
The speakers unanimously agreed that women need to be empowered through education, skill development and access to capital.
Trump spoke about the inadequate representation of women in higher education fields in the U.S. Only 13 percent of engineers and 20 percent computer science professionals are women.
The White House advisor listed the steps being taken by the Trump administration to help close the gender gap in STEM fields, and described another initiative that encourages successful entrepreneurs to mentor young men and women.
Describing technology as a greater driver of entrepreneurship, she said it was reducing barriers to start business and creating flexibility. "Technology offers tremendous opportunities to women entrepreneurs," she said.
Cherie Blair said inadequate access to capital is the biggest problem women entrepreneurs face. She also stressed the need for giving options to women and the support required in terms of policies and eco-system.
Chanda Kochhar was of the opinion that women should have confidence in their capabilities. She said women do not need special policies but only required the opportunity to prove themselves.
She explained how ICICI Bank is helping women workers, especially young mothers and those who need to take care of their elderly parents, by allowing them to work from home.
Referring to the strides India is making in women’s empowerment, she said there is no other country in the world where 40 percent of the banking sector is headed by women.
Quintos said while more women were joining the workforce, the numbers were not changing fast enough. She believes the environment is still conducive to women.