In the Economy, Girls and Women Mean Business

March 10, 2017

Takeaways

Women Deliver President & CEO, Katja Iversen, discusses private sector's role to drive women’s economic empowerment.
Iversen shares the importance of partnerships and working across sectors to achieve global gender equality.

[Editor’s Note: Katja Iversen is the President and CEO of Women Deliver, a leading global advocate for investment in the health, rights and wellbeing of girls and women. Iversen will be moderating a panel during our 2017 Women’s Empowerment Principles Forum called “What Gets Measured Gets Done – Partnerships for Progress.” For more information on our forum or panel discussion, click here.]

If there is one thing that countries have in common, it’s that they all are concerned with strengthening their economies.

Amidst debates over taxation, regulation, job creation, or business incentives, there is one proven solution that has been universally overlooked. According to a recent reports from EY and McKinsey, this particular investment has driven more global growth than India and China combined; will control close to 75% of discretionary spending worldwide by 2028; add $28 trillion to global GDP by 2025; and contribute to healthier, better educated, and more cohesive societies.

Stumped? The solution is investing in girls and women.

Yes, the females of our world are economic powerhouses and supporting them is not only the moral thing to do from a human rights perspective, it is also the economically sound thing to do. By prioritizing a series of critical investments spanning health, rights, equality, and more – and doing so simultaneously –  we can unleash a wave of transformative, sustainable change that will benefit everyone.

A Role for Private Sector

To realize this vision, we first need to address the many intersecting challenges that girls and women face. That takes mobilizing diverse actors, strengths, resources, and tapping into data.

The private sector specifically has the capital, technology, reach, and data to significantly impact the lives of the girls and women in every community. Businesses also know that what gets measured gets done. The development sector can learn a thing or two from the private sector, where no decision is made without the data to prove its validity.  

Thankfully, through the power of data, more businesses are realizing that investments in girls and women are good for society and the bottom line. When countries treat girls and women with dignity and as agents of change – investing in their health, security, and opportunity – there is a positive ripple effect for families, communities, and nations.

Women are more likely than men to reinvest earned income in their families. Businesses with greater gender diversity achieve greater profits and more innovative solutions. And with greater opportunities in the formal economy and equal pay in their pockets, women could grow economies even more.

Further Together

More than ever, the line between public, private, and non-profit sectors is blurring, and the most successful ventures leverage a combination of strengths and strategies of these sectors.

In health and development, we are facing a landscape with fewer resources and more priorities. To succeed, we don’t just need to invest more, we need to invest smarter. That means a reliance on good data—and we can take a page out of the private sector’s book to do so.

In business, consumers are increasingly putting their money where their values are, and many companies are choosing – or feel compelled – to be active in the social and political sphere. Last year, in response to growing demand from employees, consumers, and clients, Bloomberg ranked a series of prominent firms on their commitment to gender equality. Organizations from Google to Lego have fast-tracked projects to ensure equal gender representation in their products; and Nike, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble are challenging gender stereotypes in their marketing.

Women Deliver’s Partnerships in Action

As social, political, and commercial dynamics converges, we stand to benefit from formalizing the partnerships between private, public, and non-profit sectors. A great example of this cross-sector collaboration is Women Deliver’s recent collaboration with the Dutch government, and BSR, a founding partner of our Deliver for Good Campaign. At the Women Deliver 2016 Conference, we gave BSR and the Dutch government a global platform to convene 65 private sector leaders and discuss the business case for investing in women. With support from Women Deliver and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, BSR expanded on this convening in a report entitled, “Women’s Empowerment in Global Value Chains: A Business Framework for Action” which outlines action steps for companies hoping to unlock value for business, women, and society.

Women Deliver is also part of a new, global civil society and the private sector-led initiative called, Equal Measures 2030, which envisions a world where no girl or woman is invisible. The centerpiece of Equal Measures 2030 will be a data tracker to monitor a set of priority targets and indicators crucial to measuring progress towards gender equality. The tracker will feature critical analysis and unique perspectives about progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for girls and women. In doing so, we will highlight gaps, including where data are not being collected or not being disaggregated by sex and age.

Serious gender data gaps and biased data collection impede our understanding of gender imbalances and the barriers that can hold girls and women back. So, along with eight other leading civil society and private sector organizations, Women Deliver is using data and evidence-based advocacy to ensure decision-makers and stakeholders keep a focus on gender equality and are accountable for achieving the SDGs.

Our work with the private sector and civil society goes beyond the realms of business and data, too. Support from Johnson & Johnson, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Bayer has enabled us to launch and sustain our Young Leaders program, which gives young change-makers from around the world the skills and opportunities to advocate for the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women in their communities.

The Big Picture

At Women Deliver, we are still imagining how to better work in partnership with the private sector, but already it holds great promise to increase our impact as an organization. We owe it to the millions of girls and women around the world to walk every pathway available to us until we achieve a world where gender equality is the rule, not the exception.