By Clifford Louis
There’s no denying it: “The world needs strong women. Women who will lift and build others.” Women’s empowerment changes the game. Companies that promote it in their own workforce reap significant corporate benefits as a result, including a dramatic boost in company growth. Concentrating on empowering women is a reliable method of dealing with energy poverty and developing sustainable solutions to climate change. Access to financial services is another area that can help reduce gender inequality in developing nations by establishing a new role for women within the household: by bringing in her own income, a woman’s dependency on her husband is reduced and her bargaining power is increased.
“The most empowering thing for women in the developing world is having their own income that is not controlled by their husbands”, Scofield explained. “When they have resources of their own and don’t have to beg their husbands for money, it completely changes the family dynamics. Suddenly the woman in the family is seen as an important and vital contributor by the husband and children. Sadly, before this transition, women are often disrespected and treated no better than the animals”.
This too has a cumulative effect: the more women who are empowered in this way, the more likely it is their peers will follow suit. As one successful woman social entrepreneur put it, when women run their own businesses, there is no problem of a glass ceiling.”
We need to celebrate successes of women and diverse entrepreneurs. We need to understand essential infrastructure – access to technology is critically important, including accessible and affordable broadband along with the skills to use it. Skills strategies need to address the needs of entrepreneurs (rather than those of large businesses) to build capacity to succeed. We need to recognize that childcare is not a women’s issue but an economic issue. Governments and businesses should use procurement to create first customer opportunities to participate in their supply chains and promote women the maximum they can. Can it happen soon, remains a million-dollar question?