The Power of Global Networks - Blog Series

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Open Letter to the World Economic Forum: Women Key to Long-Term Growth

This week, world leaders and the world's largest corporations will be gathering at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss, in the words of the summit's theme, how to "Rethink, Redesign and Rebuild" the global economy. It is our hope leaders take time to consider that women - more than half the population - contribute to global economic stability and security and must be fully integrated into any recovery plans.

As a growing number of thought leaders and world bodies - including corporate initiatives like Goldman Sachs' $100 million investment in training 10,000 women business leaders -herald the pivotal and transformative role of women and girls to enrich societies everywhere, we must adopt strategies to achieve gender equality not only because it's just and moral but because without it, no country will achieve solid prosperity. According to a recent study by Boston Consulting Group, women workers will be driving the post-recession world economy, representing a massive emerging market more than twice the size of India and China combined. The World Economic Forum's own Global Gender Gap report shows when countries decrease the gender gap they increase development.

However, the most recent report also describes "significant" gaps in job opportunities for and wages paid to women as well as continuing inequality in women's political participation. A report in The Economist earlier this month echoed these findings:
"Only 2% of the bosses of Fortune 500 companies and five of those in the FTSE 100 stockmarket index are women. Women make up less than 13% of board members in America."
In this same environment, the U.S. government last fall released data showed the number of women in the workforce is on the verge of surpassing men for the first time, albeit women still earn an average of 78 cents to every dollar a man earns. Increasing women's participation alone will not fix the economy, as the U.S. can attest.

Tapping into the potential of economic growth women hold means providing them a space at the leadership table and creating new solutions and approaches to challenges that keep women and girls from realizing their full potential. Some of this is already taking place through partnerships and discussions between large foundations like Kellogg and Ford, women's funds worldwide, corporations like Ernst & Young and national governments. This year the fifth anniversary annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative included discussion of investing in girls and women, with sessions focused on the different ways women strengthen societies and grow economies and the need to eliminate gender inequity. The event sparked enlightened conversations and renewed commitments for cross-sector investment in women and girls, including a $5 million partnership between the World Bank, the Government of Liberia and the Nike Foundation to improve economic opportunities for adolescent girls in post-conflict Liberia by linking skills training to labor demands.

We strongly encourage the delegates at Davos to continue discussions such as these and to make actively solving gender equity a central strategy to create global economic growth. As a pall of uncertainty hangs over the start of 2010 - continuing global terrorism, climate problems, continuing job losses, ongoing wars - there should be one sure strategy world leaders, corporations and global citizens alike should agree on: investing meaningfully in women and girls.

In the past there have been missteps in actions by all sectors that have led to women being relegated to the sidelines of major efforts to create growth. A healthy global economy needs a strong societal foundation and this cannot be achieved without the contributions and participation of 51 percent of the global population. While most of us can agree on this, the next step is to make bold financial commitments that will create a noticeable difference in the future. Let's get to work!

1 comment:

  1. You're wasting your time.
    Secondly, this Klaus Schwab club of multinational corporations is singularly interested in increasing their powerer and profits. Social issues are accessory and public relations only.
    Firstly, calling for economic growth means supporting the insane belief that the planet's resources would be limitless. Such a demand demonstrates lacking understanding that humanity has overshot the earth's carryingcapacity by far and that growth means speeding up resource depletion and pollution.
    Cheers ... ecoglobe org