Re:Gender works to end gender inequity and discrimination against girls and women by exposing root causes and advancing research-informed action. Working with multiple sectors and disciplines, we are shaping a world that demands fairness across difference.
In 2008, Goldman Sachs launched 10,000 Women, a $100 million philanthropic initiative, which at the time, was the largest in Goldman’s history. The goal of the five year program is to provide business and management training to 10,000 underserved female entrepreneurs in developing countries.
Four years ago this month, Goldman Sachs invited me to attend the launch of 10,000 Women, a $100 million philanthropic initiative, which at the time, was the largest in Goldman’s history. The goal of the five year program is to provide business and management training to 10,000 underserved female entrepreneurs in developing countries. Why? Goldman’s own research (and that of many others) shows that female education is a driver of macroeconomic growth. Moreover, there was (and still very much is) a stark need to expand access to business education for women in emerging markets. When Goldman launched 10,000 Women, there were only 2,600 women attending MBA programs in all of Africa, a continent of 900 million people. Calestous Juma, a professor of international development at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, has estimated that if African women were given equal access as men to vocational training and technology, the continent’s economy would expand by at least 40 percent.
10,000 Women’s focus is very much on nurturing small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a sector of the economy with significant economic growth and employment potential. Aninteresting report from the International Finance Corporation notes that while there are roughly “8 to 10 million formal women-owned SMEs in emerging markets (representing 31 to 38 percent of all SMEs in emerging markets), the average growth rate of women’s enterprises is significantly lower than the average growth rate for SMEs run by men.” The report identifies several factors that have hindered the growth of women-owned businesses, including: institutional and regulatory issues, lack of access to finance, relatively low rates of business education, risk aversion, concentration of women’s businesses in slower growth sectors, and the burden of household management responsibilities. 10,000 Women addresses each of these issues, teaching its graduates how to recognize and navigate their legal environment, how better to access loans, prepare business plans geared for higher growth, and juggle a business with their family life. While the program does not provide credit directly, it has formed several public-private partnerships to do so. In Liberia, it is working with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; in Tanzania with the Government of Denmark, CRDB Bank, and the U.S. State Department; in Peru with the Inter-American Development Bank and Mibanco.
The Nashville CABLE and Lipscomb University College of Business 2011 Annual Census of Tennessee "Women in Corporate Leadership," released today, shows little progress toward gender diversity since the previous year-as well as since 2007, when Lipscomb University's College of Business first conducted the research. One salient finding is that while women represented 47% of the Tennessee work force in fiscal year 2010, they held only 8% of 566 public company board seats. A snapshot of the Tennessee study results over time is available as a downloadable graphic to the right.
Aileen Lee argues that by adding new blood to the boardroom, companies get a four-fer, or more: 1) gender diversity, and in most cases, age diversity around the table; 2) better understanding of core customers; 3) Social-Mobile-Local expertise and insight into digital platforms like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, Path, Square, Flipboard and Pinterest that are fundamentally changing business; and 4) hyper growth and rapid innovation DNA.
Why should we care? For one, women are the power users of many products and it’s just smart business to have an understanding of key customers around the table. Could you imagine a game company without any gamers on the leadership team or board?
If you’re not aware, studies also show companies with gender diversity at the top drive better financial performance on multiple measures – for example, 36% better stock price growth and 46% better return on equity. And, studies show the more women, the better the results. This is likely because teams with more females demonstrate higher collective intelligence and better problem solving ability. So it’s probably not a coincidence the world’s most admired companies have more women on their boards than the average company.
If you attended the opening address by Angela Merkel or the private dinner in which Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee held a group of financiers in thrall with her life story, you might think that fabulous, powerful women dominate Davos. But the fact is, Davos has a woman problem.
The first day, which included honours for the Japanese violinist Midori and a screening of the biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, may have ended with a party to "honour women innovators" such as the web entrepreneur Arianna Huffington. with guests departing into the snowy darkness of Davos to the rousing sounds of the 1980s disco classic Ladies' Night. And the biggest day of this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) on Friday may include a main room event discussing "women as the way forward".
But while the impact of women this year may be bigger than ever, organisers keen to encourage and then trumpet their success cannot hide the fact that their numbers are still small.
Despite a new quota system demanding that the largest members send one woman for every four men, just 17% of the 2,500 delegates are female. Despite a push to encourage more women on to panels to discuss the issues of the day, just 20% of those invited to do so are women. The majority of panels, especially on key economic topics, are still dominated by (white) men.
By her own example, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook demonstrates all that women can achieve when they have the talent, drive and opportunity to succeed, and she is paving the way for other women to follow her path to the top (“The $1.6 Billion Woman, Staying on Message,” Feb. 5).
But research cautions that there are many other barriers, some invisible, that continue to block women from success: subtle and not-so-subtle biases about what constitutes leadership, a lack of mentors and sponsors to pull women through the pipeline, and a corporate culture that may lack flexibility and other policies to enable women to advance.
Women’s representation on Fortune 500 boards continues to languish. With women accounting for a majority of Facebook users, it is in the company’s interest to ensure that women are represented throughout decision-making. Let’s hope that when the company goes public, Ms. Sandberg’s trailblazing will include inviting women onto the board. Linda Basch, Ph.D.
Manhattan, Feb. 6
The writer is president of the National Council for Research on Women.•
As the first university graduates to emerge from Communism to a newly developing China in the 1980s and 90s, those women didn't hesitate to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to their careers. But according to data from the Center for Talent Innovation (formerly the Center for Work-Life Policy), today's younger generation is different. "The mindset has really changed," notes an HR manager for a major multinational corporation. "Women now talk about facials and traveling and all the things that the older generation didn't think about until they were more established."
U.K. companies may face quotas unless they promote more women to board level, Prime Minister David Cameron warned, saying businesses are “failing” the economy by not having enough females in senior positions.
From Business Week:
Appointing women as directors and encouraging them as entrepreneurs is “about quality, not just equality,” Cameron said at a meeting of the Northern Future Forum in Stockholm today.
“The case is overwhelming that companies are run better if we have men and women alongside each other,” Cameron said in a round-table discussion. “If we can’t get there in other ways I think we have to have quotas.”
The U.K. is working to implement the recommendations of a February 2011 report by Mervyn Davies on increasing the number of women on boards, it said in a submission to the meeting. As a result, women now make up 15 percent of directors of companies in the benchmark FTSE 100 Index, up from 12.5 percent last year, and there are now only 10 all-male boards in the FTSE, down from 21 last year.
Starting in October, as a result of a new provision in the U.K. corporate-governance code, companies will have to report on their policy for boardroom diversity and how they are making progress in delivering it.
It's easy to think of the cookie program as girls simply hawking treats, but there's something more behind the annual ritual, especially this year. For the first time since 1987, the Girl Scout curriculum has been revamped and now features a stronger focus on the financial literacy and business lessons behind the cookie sales.
The organization offers new badges — those ubiquitous adornments on Scouts' uniforms — focused on the cookie trade that girls such as Erin can earn after completing several steps that essentially frame sweets sales like a real-world business.
Scouts at each level, from the 5- and 6-year-old Daisies to the high school Ambassadors, learn about customer relations, business plans, research and development, marketing and sales analysis, all in the name of cookies.
Nebraska Girl Scouts sold more than 2 million boxes of cookies last year, and 200 million were sold nationwide.
"Some of the younger girls are looking at apps, technology and ways to organize their cookie program in ways I hadn't thought of," said Theresa Cassaday, chief communication officer for Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska, the state's arm of the national organization.