Women’s Economic Empowerment is Not Philanthropy

March 7, 2014

How should one celebrate International Women’s Day? For us at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we celebrate by  bringing fifty of the greatest women’s empowerment leaders together with more than 500 “change agent” participants to document, through a multitude of themes, that economically empowering women is not only possible, but there is no other choice. On Tuesday, March 4, we celebrated International Women’s Day with a phenomenal gathering of speakers that reiterated over and over again that the “time is now” to create a paradigm shift for women’s role in the world.  With our partners, United Nations Office for Partnerships and Business Call to Action, our fourth annual International Women’s Day event was filled with inspiration and calls to action.

One of the clearest messages of the day is that there is a strong business case for empowering women, and the “time is now” to act. As Michelle Greene, Head of Corporate Responsibility at NYSE EuroNext, said passionately, women’s empowerment is a, “strategic imperative,” not philanthropy. Corporate leaders from IBM, Ann Inc., Coca-Cola, Gap Inc., and others noted over and over again that investing in women makes good business sense.

Another important theme of the day was empowering people to be change actors around the world and in their own communities. Ambassador Verveer said, “Women are agents of change, they are not victims.” Others spoke on the need to empower youth. Chelsea Clinton eloquently said, “Young people are visual learners,” when describing the need to find stories that resonate with them.

The power of data as a way to better design programming, consider impact, and reach target audiences was expressed throughout the day. As Mary Ellen Iskenderian, CEO of Women’s World Banking said, “Big data is helping us show the ‘so what’ for increasing women’s financial inclusion.” Chelsea Clinton added, “We need to better marry the relationship between data and stories, ensuring that data is compelling and inescapable.”

Overall, our International Women’s Day speakers gave us hundreds of reasons to believe that change is possible. I encourage you to read the blogs we've posted from our speakers in celebration of International Women's Day. We will continue to bring together these amazing leaders over the year in the hope that one day this will be a conversation of the past. Thank you for attending and participating!