Let's discuss the future of our global economy and society. Specifically, I'd like to discuss women, and the role women will play in transforming our global economy and society over the next decade. I also want to share some thoughts on the role women will play in helping transform The Coca-Cola Company over the next decade and beyond.
Like so many of you, I usually start my day with National Public Radio. And driving into work one recent morning, I got stuck in Atlanta traffic and my attention turned to a report on the radio. It was yet another story about China's rise in the world. Some economists were predicting that China would most likely eclipse Japan as the world's second largest economy by the end of this year -- a full five years ahead of most previous projections.
Perhaps you heard the same report. China's GDP is projected to grow to more than $5 trillion dollars this year. Of course, a day doesn't go by without some new breathtaking statistic about China or India or Brazil, or some other fast-growing economy in the developing world. No one has done a better job chronicling the economic rise of the rest of the world than Fareed Zakaria. I've had the good fortune of meeting Fareed on a number of occasions and I am always impressed by his fascinating insights on the global landscape. In his seminal book, The Post-American World, he wrote at length about the nations that will be driving the 21st century economy, and the implications this will have on America.
I think there's another way of looking at this as well -- one that goes beyond national comparisons. In fact, I would say that real drivers of the "Post-American World" won't be China ... or India ... or Brazil -- or any nation for that matter. The real drivers will be women. Women entrepreneurs, women business, political, academic and cultural leaders -- and women innovators. The truth is that women already are the most dynamic and fastest-growing economic force in the world today.
Women now control over $20 trillion dollars in spending worldwide. To put that into context -- that's an economic impact larger than the U.S., China and India economies combined. But there's so much more to the story. Here in the U.S., women-owned businesses account for nearly $4 trillion dollars in GDP. That's right: $4 trillion dollars in economic output. This alone constitutes the fourth-largest economy in the world. Only the U.S., Japan and China are larger today.
Women's entrepreneurship doesn't stop at U.S. borders, of course. It is soaring around the world. In fact, today, one in 11 working-age women is now involved in entrepreneurship. And the highest percentages of women business owners are in markets you might not expect. Consider this: nearly 20 percent of working women in Thailand are entrepreneurs. In India, it's 14 percent; Argentina, 12 percent; Brazil, 11 percent; and Mexico and Chile 10 percent. And these percentages are rising every year.
So, let's for the moment forget all the talk about the "China Century" or the "India Century" or the "BRIC Century." The real story is that the 21st century is going to be the "Women's Century." As the world desperately looks for ways to restart and reset the global economy, the solution lies right in front of us. In the words of World Bank President Robert Zoellick, gender equality is simply "smart economics."
Now, I realize some of you may be scratching your head and thinking -- "Why is this guy so interested in women's empowerment issues?" That's a fair question. For starters, I have been managed by women all of my life ... beginning at birth with my mother. Now Defne and my daughter, Selin, continue that strong management tradition today. I like to think they've done a wonderful job.
Selin is also in the early stages of her professional career. I would like to see my daughter flourish professionally in a world that is more just and equitable for women, and where the benefits of diversity are fully appreciated. I also a feel a deep and personal obligation to uphold the legacies of my father and father-in-law -- men of great principle who worked tirelessly to promote the rights of all men and women.
And, of course, as a business leader and someone who has been given the responsibility of creating shareholder value for the world's most recognized brand -- I feel a tremendous sense of urgency in ensuring that conditions are ripe for women to thrive around the world.
Call it self-interest ... or enlightened self-interest -- it really doesn't matter. Creating a climate of success for women globally is just simply smart business for a consumer-products company. It's smart business for any company. Empower women and you recharge the world.
In recent months, magazines ranging from Business Week to The Economist have cited studies that show a direct correlation between women's empowerment and national GDP growth, business growth, environmental sustainability, and improved human health, just to name a few things. The community, social, and family implications are vast. For instance, there's no question that women influence public opinion inside the home.
At Coca-Cola we have massive banks of information on shoppers and consumers around the world and all of our data points to women as the household opinion elites. Women determine what comes into the home and in what quantity and frequency. It's probably no surprise to you that women account for the majority of purchase decisions for our beverages. In fact, they represent 70 percent of all grocery shoppers.
At Coca-Cola, we can't grow our business or reach any of our long-term business goals without greater women's economic empowerment and entrepreneurship around the world. In fact, no business or economy will be able to grow without this. All the growth projections we've been hearing about for the coming years -- for China, for India, for Africa, for North and South America -- none of it will be possible without women's economic empowerment.
The only way a projected billion people will rise to the middle class in the next 10 years... the only way the world will grow $20 trillion dollars richer... the only way more nations will rise out of poverty and become more politically stable... will be by women achieving gender parity on a global scale.
If we fail in this regard, the world's economy will fail.
While business and society have made great progress in recent years, the journey has just begun. We still see too many roadblocks to women's empowerment. Cultural roadblocks ... educational roadblocks ... political roadblocks ... financial roadblocks, and technology roadblocks, to name just a few. I had a great conversation not long ago with President Obama's Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Melanne Verveer. Ambassador Verveer said something very poignant about the persistent lack of access to capital for women entrepreneurs.
She said, and I quote: "Too many of the best business ideas die in bank parking lots. That's got to change and it will change." Here I'd like to outline 3 concrete ways that business, government and academia can have a significant impact in generating female empowerment around the globe.