Coca-Cola has pledged $1 million to Operation HOPE to support efforts to provide financial education to women and girls living in the southeastern United States. The contribution, supported by The Coca-Cola Foundation and two Coca-Cola system bottlers, will fund the expansion and delivery of “Hope Insides,” and nationally-acclaimed financial literacy, career training and entrepreneurship programs.

The number of women-owned businesses grew by 74 percent between 1997 and 2015—a rate that’s 1.5 times the national average, according to the “2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” commissioned by American Express Open. Women now own 30 percent of all businesses in the United States, accounting for some 9.4 million firms. And African American women control 14 percent of these companies, or an estimated 1.3 million businesses.

The emergence of women entrepreneurs is a good thing. According to Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, research indicates that women bring particular sets of skills that not only set them apart from their male counterparts, but also lend themselves to being successful entrepreneurs, and an increase in the number of women in business leadership positions is correlated with increased business returns and payout ratios.

Yet, despite the women entrepreneurial increase, women today remain inadequately represented as entrepreneurs.

“The shift in women’s economic roles is good both socially and for our economy. As more and more women are embracing entrepreneurship, it is critical they are supported and given the education and tools needed to succeed in their ambitions,” said Lisa Borders, Chair, The Coca-Cola Foundation and Vice President, Global Community Affairs, and Operation HOPE Board Member. “While Operation HOPE supports women establishing and growing small businesses, importantly, it also targets girls, equipping them early in life with an entrepreneur mindset to handle the challenges they’ll face in today’s global economy.”

Too often, women and youth run into barriers including insufficient information about their capabilities, needs, and aspirations; low levels of education and skills; limited access to financial services; social and cultural norms; misguided public policies; and inadequate physical infrastructure. Operation HOPE is dedicated to breaking down some of these barriers. And, Coca-Cola is hoping to help.

Operation HOPE programs focus on four economic enablers—financial education and credit management, business skills training and career pathways, access to loans and financial services, and peer mentoring. Objectives are to build entrepreneurial capabilities and the capacity of women and girls to enhance their competitiveness and support growth in low-to moderate-income communities throughout the United States.

Coca-Cola’s grant to Operation HOPE, which will be paid over four years, aims to impact 150,000 girls through HOPE’s Banking on Our Future; 150 girls in local internships through its  B- Minus Business Compact internship program; 15 HOPE Business In A Box Academies focused solely on girls; 3,700 new HOPE Corps volunteers to serve as business role models for student entrepreneurs; 14,525 women with education such as small business development workshops; 26,407 women with individual and group counseling in areas such as credit/money management; 1,231 women with computer literacy classes; and 505 women-owned generated businesses.

Women are gaining financial training, counseling and information at HOPE Insides, financial empowerment opportunities provided at already-frequented locations, like a bank, in low-income communities. It is expected there will be a network of 40 HOPE Insides in key U.S. metro markets by end of 2015.

Coca-Cola has supported Operation HOPE since 2010.

Learn more about how Coca-Cola is Giving Back.