Shelley’s aim when starting Papillon was to pay her employees $300 per month, which is roughly enough to cover food and shelter and send two children to school. It’s not much, but it’s significant in a country where people live on as little as $200 a year. There are few public schools, and it costs upward of $130 a year
to educate a child. As a result, one-third of girls
above the age of six don’t go to school. For the employees of Papillon, these jobs are more than just a paycheck — they are about education and hope and the belief that things will get better for the next generation.
Female entrepreneurs like Shelley are crucial to the economic development of Haiti. But women who own businesses are not important only in the world’s poorest nations. Research has found that mobilizing the female workforce would have a drastic impact on the world's economy. Citing data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Hillary Clinton wrote in a 2014 op-ed
in The Economist
that closing the gap in workforce participation between men and women would increase the global GDP by nearly 12% by 2030.
Unfortunately, only 55% of women worldwide are part of the labor force, compared to 82% of men, according to highlights from the 2015 No Ceilings Initiative Full Participation report
that was released this spring by the Clinton Foundation in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In countries like Haiti, where poverty is widespread, giving women the tools and the opportunities for advancement doesn’t just help individuals but also whole communities. “Women tend to invest more of their earnings than men do in their family’s well-being — as much as 10 times more,” Melinda Gates wrote in an article for Science
in September 2014. She goes on to note that “women’s control over resources is associated with better outcomes in family planning; maternal, newborn, and child health; nutrition; and agricultural development.”