How will the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship help Muslim women?

Last Friday, the White House held a call-in press conference for bloggers regarding the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship that the White House is hosting this week. Geek-out tangent: this was my first White House press conference, so I was pretty excited. I even asked a question! Whee!

Okay, geek-out over.

There are over 250 delegates from 50 – 60 countries (many of them Muslim-majority countries) coming to Washington, D.C. for the two-day summit.

The summit aims to be part of a long-term approach to building economic bridges and partnerships outside of governmental settings (despite the fact that this is sponsored by the U.S. government). Although not all participants are Muslim or from Muslim countries, the website states that one of the summit’s aims will focus on entrepreneurship in Muslim-majority countries:

Through this Summit and subsequent efforts, we seek to identify and remove barriers to entrepreneurship, while building the infrastructure needed to continue to grow and sustain successful programs and initiatives in Muslim communities around the world.

A country cannot make progress if its women are not making progress. Since there is a focus on developing and encouraging entrepreneurship in Muslim-majority countries, and knowing that there are female participants from a few Gulf countries, I asked how the summit can help economically empower women in these regions. Senior administration officials stated that there are “unique opportunities and challenges for women that deserve to be a special focus.” Many of the delegates from the Middle East/North Africa region are accomplished female entrepreneurs, but there are also several budding businesspeople in attendance, including students and recent graduates. The summit has sought broad age and gender diversity “in order to help women pursue entrepreneurship that can benefit their communities.”

It seems the Obama Administration rightly believes that there is great potential in aiding women’s entrepreneurship: on Tuesday of the summit, there is a special focus on female entrepreneurship with a panel titled “Unleashing the Power of Women Entrepreneurs,” headed by Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith, along with sessions with Valerie Jarrett and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is always talking about women’s empowerment in Muslim majority countries (just disregard the fact that much of it is military-related).

The Summit began today, and the entire thing will be streaming live on the summit’s website. Check it out!