Q&A with Suzanne Fallender on Intel's Global Women and Girls Initiative
April 29, 2015
In mid-April, CCC and the Harvard Kennedy School Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative released A Path to Empowerment: The role of corporations in supporting women's economic progress. The report, based on a series of invitation-only, high level roundtables, offers a three-pronged framework for how the private sector can best engage in women's economic empowerment globally. This includes:
- Engage more strategically with women in core business operation and value chains;
- Enable women through corporate community investment and philanthropy; and
- Advocate for women through corporate research, communications and policy platforms.
Intel's commitment to women and girls includes all aspects of the Engage, Enable, Advocate framework. Intel, a Shape Level supporter of CCC, took part as both a presenter and a participant in the CCC/CSRI Path to Empowerment roundtable series as well as in CCC’s March 2015 collaborative event with the UN Office of Partnerships and UN Women, The Empowerment Bridge: Building a Lifetime of Opportunity for Women and Girls. We recently caught up with Intel's Suzanne Fallender, Director, Global Women and Girls Initiative, about the company's work on behalf of women and girls globally.
Question: Suzanne, over the course of the Path to Empowermentroundtable series, we have been so privileged to learn from you about Intel's work on behalf of women and girls. Can you tell us a little bit about why this work is such a priority for the company?
Answer: Our focus on investing girls’ and women’s empowerment comes down to data and impact. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more research indicating the size of the persistent gender gaps globally and the significant social and economic opportunities that could be realized—such as when 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP can rise by 3%, how girls with 8 years of education are 4 times less likely to be married as children, and how bringing another 600 million women online could contribute an estimated $13 billion to $18 billion to the annual GDP across 144 developing countries. As we looked at areas where we could have the greatest impact through our external programs and partnerships, we saw an opportunity to contribute in two main areas where we already had expertise and experience—education and technology access. Empowering more girls and women to both access technology and also become creators of technology could also have important long-term impacts for our business, in terms of the availability of skilled workers, knowledgeable consumers, and the health of local economies where we operate. Our work in this area also complemented our existing commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion within our company, in our supply chain and in the technology industry more generally.
Q: Intel's seminal Women and the Web report is an excellent example of a company using its corporate research and communications platforms to advocate for women. Why did Intel choose to engage in this research, and what would your advice be for other companies looking to make a similar investment in helping to fill the data and research gap?
A: We’re a company that is used to making decisions based on data—and the more that we looked at opportunities to invest in the technology access and empowerment space, and the more conversations we had with governments and development agencies working on gender issues, the more it became clear that new research was needed on the size and nature of the technology gender gap, the barriers women face, and the areas where investment and action could have the greatest impact. The findings of the report helped strengthen and build new relationships with partner organizations, since they have been able to leverage the research in policy forums and in program design and development. The research was also integral to the development of our new Intel She Will Connect program to begin to close the Internet gender gap. Given our experience with this report, we invested this past year in a second report called “MakeHers: Engaging Girls and Women in Technology through Making, Creating and Inventing," which explores how “maker” activities can serve as a new way to inspire more girls to study computer science and engineering.
My advice to other companies is to take the time to invest in this research up front—and to identify partners to collaborate on the research project with you from the beginning. This will help frame the research and ensure it will be applicable and useful to a broad range of stakeholders to drive collective impact.
Q: One of the findings from Women and the Web was the breadth of the Internet gender gap around the world. Can you tell us more about Intel's She Will Connect program, which aims to expand access in sub-Saharan Africa, the region where the report found the greatest gap?
A: The Intel She Will Connect program is using a combination of digital literacy training, online peer networks, and gender-relevant content to help young women acquire or improve their digital literacy skills so that they can connect to new information and opportunities. As you note, we are beginning the program in sub-Saharan Africa, where the Internet gender gap is the greatest (43% fewer women are online than men vs. a 25% gap across the developing countries in the study).
Classroom-based digital literacy training is already underway, and we are collaborating with partners to develop new technology-based training resources to innovate around the way digital literacy training is taught, including a new interactive online learning platform to be launched later this year. As part of the program, Intel has also been developing content to help women understand the benefits of getting connected online, using stories of women who are already using the Internet to achieve their educational, employment and personal goals. One important finding from the Women and the Web report was that beyond the barriers of cost, illiteracy, and cultural factors, many women also reported that they weren’t connected because they didn’t understand what information is available on the Internet and how they could use it to achieve their goals. As one woman in South Africa said in a recent focus group, “We know how to use the Internet, but we don’t know how to use it to benefit our lives.”
Q: Intel was also a strategic founding partner of the Girl Rising film and social action campaign. Fill us in on Girl Rising, and Intel's role.
A: Intel began our collaboration on Girl Rising back in 2010 when we became a founding strategic partner on the film and the campaign. It has simply been an amazing project and journey: over the past few years the campaign has reached over 200 million people across the globe and convened more than 10,000 film screenings to raise awareness and inspire action to invest in girls’ access to education. For Intel, the project went well beyond the typical financial sponsorship. We engaged our employees and executives to participate in more than 100 volunteer activities and screening events in over 30 countries. We collaborated with our customers and suppliers to help them include the campaign into their own CSR and employee engagement programs. We integrated the campaign into our social media channels, and helped bring the film to our local communities and to leading policy forums, such as the World Bank and the U.S. State Department and created a new gender policy toolkit in collaboration with UNESCO for policymakers. Intel is continuing our work on the campaign through our involvement in “Girl Rising: ENGAGE” a collaboration between Girl Rising, USAID, and others to deepen the impact of the campaign at a grassroots level in India, Nigeria and the DRC over the next few years.
Q: We were thrilled that you introduced us to Kennedy Odede, founder of the Kibera School for Girls and Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), who was the closing keynote speaker at The Empowerment Bridge event at the UN. You know Kennedy through Intel's support of the Half the Sky and A Path Appears initiatives, in which he and SHOFCO were profiled. How did Intel get involved with Half the Sky and A Path Appears, and how does this work align with your other strategies to empower women and girls?
A: Yes, I was so glad you were able to have him close out the conference this year on such an inspiring note. Intel got involved with the projects a few years ago, providing support both for the Half the Sky Facebook Game and the A Path Appears documentary series. Our motivation was similar to our reasons for getting involved in the Girl Rising campaign—that at the time there was a need to raise basic awareness about the barriers that girls and women face to encourage action and investment. One of the key themes that runs throughout A Path Appears —and is highlighted in Kennedy’s story in the film—is the transformative difference education can make in breaking the cycles of violence and poverty. The other key theme is the power of individuals to make a difference in their own lives and how they can empower others. We wanted to help shine a light on these stories and highlight the power of using technology and social media to engage more people in developing innovative solutions and interventions.
Q: Lastly--Intel was a strong supporter of and participant in the Path to Empowerment roundtable series. How was this series valuable to you as you continue to lead Intel's work in empowering women and girls?
A: What I found most valuable was the opportunity to speak with people at other companies working in different areas of women’s empowerment e.g. financial services and access to capital, women’s entrepreneurship, supply chain programs, job skills. It provided the chance to talk about ways that we might be able to connect or align our activities in new ways moving forward. Not every company needs to have programs in every area—we will likely be more efficient and effective if we focusing in areas most aligned to our organization’s core strengths. Also, given the complexity of the issues and the commonality in the challenges of implementation, it was incredibly valuable to be able to have frank conversations about program impact measurement and evaluation, strategies for building effective stakeholder partnerships at the local level, and how to create social impact programs that are aligned with long-term business value. On a personal level, it’s been incredibly motivating and humbling to engage with others working in the same space and toward a common goal.
[Editor's Note: We recently released The Path to Empowerment: The role of corporations in supporting women's economic progress, in partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School Corporate Social Responisbility Initiative. It is available here.]