Chloё Poynton, Manager, Advisory Services, BSR

In the past six months, I have conducted numerous due diligence projects for companies interested in investing responsibly in Myanmar. I’ve been struck by the plethora of opportunities available to both business and foreign donors interested in contributing to broad-based economic growth—from investing in information and communications technology to developing effective health-care infrastructure. At the root of all of these efforts lies a powerful opportunity: Include women as part of the solution.

Female participation in economic life is a tool for empowerment and is an essential component of building strong economies and stable and just societies, increasing sustainable development, and improving human rights and quality of life for women and girls. This is especially true in Myanmar, a country emerging from decades of military rule.

At BSR, we believe that focusing investor efforts on empowering Myanmar’s female workforce will lead to broader female participation in economic development and ensure that the benefits of investment are felt at the community level. Studies by USAID reveal that “US$1 in female hands is worth US$10 (and in some cases US$20) in male hands.” This discrepancy is due to the fact that women tend to invest money into the well-being of their families, while men often spend it on their own needs and desires. As such, broad-based economic development in Myanmar will become a reality much faster if we invest in female workers.

There are two primary avenues for promoting female workers in Myanmar—supporting entrepreneurial activity and using the workplace to empower female workers. BSR recommends a two-pronged approach for multinational companies interesting in promoting women’s empowerment through the promotion of economic activity:

  1. Scaling women-owned businesses: Multinational companies can partner with international and local organizations to invest in building the capacity of women-owned businesses through training and mentorship programs. These businesses can then integrate into global supply chains through linkages to companies seeking to expand their Myanmar presence. These investments will yield significant business benefits by building strong supply chains and will also ensure strong female participation in Myanmar’s economic growth.
  2. Empowering female supply chain workers: As multinational companies enter Myanmar, the number of female workers linked to global supply chains will grow exponentially. Investing in workplace programs such as BSR’s HERproject and HERfinance provides an opportunity to empower women to take control over their health and financial futures, while teaching valuable leadership skills. These investments will help deliver a strong workforce, while empowering women to become leaders in their workplaces and communities.

Scaling women-owned businesses and empowering female supply chain workers will ensure that women are placed at the center of responsible investment in Myanmar. When we place women at the center of development, the ripple effect ensures that broad-based economic growth is realized and that the benefits of foreign investment are felt by all.