In the late 1970’s one of the major findings on Madison Avenue, (then the world capital of advertising) was that women control over 80% of all consumer purchases in the U.S. This ‘shocking discovery’ changed who and how companies marketed their products. I was just entering the workforce then and thought, ‘ how in the world could this have been such a surprise?’  Had none of them been to a grocery or department store?  Had none of them recognized that the one car family was becoming two and it was women doing the schlepping?

It is happening again. Only this time the stakes are much higher.  Cell phones have flown off the shelves and into the hands of people in the remotest and some of the poorest places on earth.  They are transforming the developing world and bringing incredible opportunities.

Yet, according to a Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and a GSMA study, three hundred million fewer women own them than men in the developing world.  If this gap isn’t closed women will be left out of not only the communication revolution but the opportunity to use the phone to make money, get information they need to stay healthy or to grow better crops, or to seek help. The industry association, GSMA, along with USAID, AUSAID and Visa Inc. said we are not going to let this happen on our watch. Today we are announcing a global public-private partnership to close the gap. And since we know for it to be sustainable without donor dollars, we are working with the mobile operators to build the business case for phone ownership by poor women.

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