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Innovations for Women: A New Focus for ExxonMobil, Others?

Posted by: Reena Jana on September 24, 2009

ExxonMobil is seeking to develop new technologies to help women in developing countries improve their economic lives, the company announced at the Clinton Global Initiative. What this means is ExxonMobil will work on new products that will help free women from their time-consuming household, water collecting, or farming-related chores. The goal is to eventually allow them more of an opportunity to pursue income-generating activities, too.

The specific products haven’t yet been determined. But ExxonMobil kicked off the program by supporting a white paper by the International Center for Research on Women that identifies guidelines for developing and capitalizing on tech that can help increase women’s earning potential. For example, it suggests that businesses cultivate relationships with well-connected female “champions,” which could mean high-profile executives or even celebrities, to support and promote the invention.

The white paper could be of interest to corporations beyond ExxonMobil, of course, as it might spark ideas for new products and services—and therefore new markets and revenues.(Here’s a link to the PDF.)

I met with Lorie D. Jackson, director of ExxonMobil’s Women Economic Opportunities Initiative. She emphasized that while the effort is clearly a do-good project, it is also a business investment.

"We're building the next generation of business leaders by supporting women," Jackson said. The emerging-market countries where ExxonMobil has invested more than $20 million to date in previous skill-developing projects for women are all in nations where ExxonMobil has a business presence--such as Angola, Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia. So in theory, the women that the company targets with these programs could eventually join ExxonMobil's work force.

Jackson also said that the initiative also will spark fresh areas of R & D for ExxonMobil. "We're going to be identifying the newest technologies for women," she said. This means that there could be new revenue streams for the corporation.

ExxonMobil will be spending $1.5 million on its Technologies to Improve Women's Economic Livelihoods program this year. It will be working with Ashoka, an association of social entrepreneurs, to research and target the inventions that the company might pursue.

Reader Comments

Margaret Mbogoh

September 25, 2009 10:59 AM

This technology initiative for women is a positive step toward economic empowerment in Sub-Sahara Africa. Will it be available to the women of Kenya?
Our organization, the Kenya Women's Chamber of Commerce will be interested in partnering with you especially because, like you, we look at it as a business investment.

Deborah G Kagwisagye

January 21, 2010 10:23 AM

I would like to invite you to Rwanda- Kigali, to support GENERATIONS IMPACT Organisation, which works with the poor women especially the former commercial sex workers. This enables them get vocational skills and start income generating activities, which helps them to leave sex slavery and help their kids get a new beginning instead of a viscious circle of sex trade! Thank you

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