The past couple months have been a long, extended and tortuous watershed moment for women’s equality – culminating in Time’s decision to acknowledge the #MeToo social media movement and recognize “The Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year.
But while many women are increasingly speaking out, others are still in the shadows. True, the world may be nudging closer to the time when women can truly feel equal in the workplace. Yet worldwide, only 50 percent the world’s women are part of the workforce – or at least, that is the ratio of women whose economic contributions are recognized. Contrast that figure with the world’s men, three-fourths of whom work and are integrated into their local economies. Furthermore, depending on the source cited, women earn anywhere from 60 to 75 cents for each dollar a man earns.
So how can women’s financial clout ever catch up with that of men?
That is the question Oxford University’s Global Business Coalition for Women’s Economic Empowerment (GBC4WEE) initiative, which launched last week, is trying to answer. Joining Oxford on this quest to improve the economic inclusion of women are companies such as Coca-Cola and Walmart.
“The whole agenda would move more quickly if these players were sharing with each other what they were learning,” Oxford University’s Linda Scott, widely recognized as a global thought leader on women entrepreneurs, explained to the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a recent interview.
Scott cited a wide body of research indicating that as more women work, economic growth expands. In turn, women are inclined to spend more of their earned money on education and other investments that can help reverse poverty.
Additional companies participating in the GBC4WEE program include ExxonMobil, Marks & Spencer, Mastercard, Mondelēz International, PwC, Qualcomm and Goldman Sachs.
The 10,000 Women initiative Goldman Sachs has managed for a decade offers one example of how the global business community can encourage more women to pursue their career and economic goals. The program offers women entrepreneurs business management education, mentoring and access to finance. Working with approximately 100 academic and nonprofit partners, the program’s managers say it has reached over 10,000 women across 56 nations.
Going beyond those numbers, the 10,000 Women program has also generated a long-term, “pay it forward” impact. At least 90 percent of the women who have completed this Goldman Sachs initiative have mentored other women in their local communities; 58 percent of the women have created new jobs at an average clip of 3.5 employees; and 69 percent of the program’s alumni have reported a boost in earned revenues.
Scott is seeking more programs that can similarly lift economic prospects for more women. “Realistically, the only way that women’s economic empowerment can be sustained is if it is hardwired into the world system, primarily via the private sector,” she wrote in a blog post last month.
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