H&M Foundation empowers women with list of 500 all-female entrepreneurs

Elankumaran Selvmalar, one of the Foundation 500 women

Elankumaran Selvmalar, one of the Foundation 500 women

H&M’s non-profit arm has launched an alternative to the Fortune 500 list, published each year by Fortune magazine. Foundation 500, as it’s called, showcases female-only business leaders from around the world.

Done in partnership with humanitarian agency, CARE, the aim is to challenge stereotypes and redefine what a business leader looks like. The initiative ties to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals on women’s empowerment and gender equality, which demonstrate that empowering women is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty and create economic growth.

The stories of successful women from 11 emerging countries, including Burundi, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Jordan, Peru and Zambia, among others, are told, alongside imagery captured by Malin Fezehai in a style similar to that of business magazines covers.

“The entrepreneur is the hero of our time, and it is estimated that over the coming years over 1 billion women will enter the workforce – a majority through entrepreneurship. But, you can’t be what you can’t see. Women rarely make the covers of business magazines, in fact the last time a woman was on the cover of Fortune Magazine was October 2014. With the Foundation 500 list we want to redefine what a business leader looks like,” says Diana Amini, global manager at H&M Foundation.

Further women in the Foundation 500: Karunakuran Kirupaliny, Philomène Tia And Suriyanti

Further women in the Foundation 500: Karunakuran Kirupaliny, Philomène Tia And Suriyanti

The 500 women included are a representation of the 100,000 participating in the Global Program on Empowering Women through Enterprise Development initiated by H&M Foundation and CARE in 2014. From 2014-2020, H&M Foundation has pledged 120 million Swedish krona ($14 million/€12 million) to support over 200,000 women entrepreneurs from emerging markets with seed capital and skills training to start and expand their businesses.

”Born with zero privilege, the women portrayed in the Foundation 500 list have made their own fortunes in the harshest of startup-environments. Yet, their stories often go untold. I wish I had seen women like these on the cover of business magazines when I grew up in South Sudan,” said British/Sudanese supermodel, entrepreneur and H&M Foundation Ambassador, Alek Wek.

“Media can play an important role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by unveiling inspiring stories helping to change mindsets of what women entrepreneurs can achieve and giving role models a platform to show what is possible. This can contribute to changes in convictions, attitudes, behaviour, rules, regulations and policies,” the write-up from the Foundation reads.