Smart economics

Article Date

19 October 2011

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

The global community is at a crossroads, one that could potentially yield significant change for women in poverty: Governments and international donors finally are recognizing that women in low- and middle-income countries have a role in advancing struggling economies. Corporations and foundations – from Nike and Novo to Goldman Sachs and Gates – are dedicating funds to educate and empower women. New governing bodies, such as United Nations Women, are emerging to promote gender equality.

Is this a remarkable convergence of events or an intentional confluence of will?

The commitments are indeed praiseworthy. They represent a long overdue realization that national economies lose out when a substantial part of the population cannot compete equitably in the marketplace. This is clear progress. But we still don’t have all the answers. Practitioners and investors alike still grapple with how to economically strengthen women – and how to evaluate whether their efforts are successful. Here at ICRW, we provide direction for this process in our latest report, “Understanding and Measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment.” Our guide offers a sound starting point, but it is no silver bullet.

I believe that to truly benefit from the collection of these advancements of late and make a difference for women in a manner that can be sustained and scaled up, more economic development efforts must address the “intersections” in women’s lives. Life, after all, is complex. So economic empowerment programs need to identify the complexities in women’s lives and tackle the integrated factors that affect their opportunities. Without simultaneously addressing women’s health and safety, for instance, economic development efforts pack less punch. Think about it: A woman is better positioned to boost her earning power if she also has the ability to protect herself from HIV. She’s better poised to maintain a job and control her earnings if she can stay free from domestic violence.

Applying such an “intersected” approach can create an army of resilient, workforce-ready women, who know how to shatter barriers to the world marketplace and who have the skills to navigate unexpected shocks, such as the profound economic upheaval that’s currently gripping the globe.

The times in which we find ourselves demand a shift in how we do business – a strategic shift that capitalizes on this emerging market of women. With readiness and resilience, they can be the next drivers of economic prosperity and stability.

Join ICRW today for a discussion at The National Press Club on how women can fuel global economic growth.