In March of this year, we were humbled by the profound messages we heard from two adolescent girl champions during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s International Women’s Day Forum. These two young women representing the United States and Mexico spoke alongside us on a panel aptly named, “Creating a New Generation of Trailblazers” and their message was to empower girls around the globe to promote civic and political participation in their countries. As we celebrate International Youth Day on August 12, it is the perfect time to revisit that message, reflecting on where we’ve come and where we still need to go on a global scale.
Thankfully in 2022, women in civic and political leadership positions have come a long way. There are 26 women serving in elected office as Presidents and Prime-Ministers in nations across the globe. While we celebrate those achievements, there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in global public sector decision-making. For example, only 21% of government ministers are women and only four countries around the globe have at least 50% of women in parliament. If current rates of progress continue, it will take over 145 years to finally realize gender parity in political participation globally. That’s 145 years of missed progress that our world cannot afford.
As Congresswoman Madeline Dean said during the event in March, it is incredibly important to empower young girls to rise. Promoting women and girls’ civic and political participation is a smart long-term investment and a step forward to empowering girls and young women– but it requires the will to make it. Starting that investment in childhood stands to have an even greater impact by growing the pipeline of future leaders. Achieving equity for women begins with achieving equity for girls. That’s why Save the Children and Procter & Gamble have joined together in support of boosting civic leadership among girls and young women around the globe with active programs in countries like Mexico and Indonesia.
Through an increase of women leaders in the global political sphere, we can also promote gender balance in the workforce. That alone could double global GDP growth contributed by female workers over 10 years. When women are encouraged and empowered to be active participants in civic and political roles, they also make policy decisions that are more representative, a crucial driver behind more equitable societies. And, more equitable societies are proven to be more stable and peaceful which, in the long term, can lessen the need for humanitarian assistance. Increasing women’s civic involvement is also good business sense: Women account for an estimated $20 trillion in consumer spending around the world and influence between 64-85% of all buying decisions.
Unfortunately – but not surprisingly – women and girls were among the most adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating previously existing inequities. A Save the Children report found that girls were more heavily impacted than boys, with 63% of girls saying they were doing more household chores and caring for siblings, often impacting their ability to learn. Furthermore, projections suggest that the pandemic has caused a significant surge in child marriage rates and school dropouts.
In recognition of International Youth Day this month, we want to leverage the potential of all generations, prioritizing girls and young women to LEAD. Women and girls must be at the decision-making table as the world seeks solutions to our most critical problems. For over 100 years, Save the Children has worked tirelessly to ensure girls grow up healthy, educated, and safe so that they can lead and take charge of their own destiny. Procter & Gamble embraces a global commitment to gender equality and inclusion by removing barriers to girls’ education and economic improvement. As part of P&G’s ‘We See Equal’ programs, our organizations partner to break down gender barriers and eliminate gender bias – in both girls and boys.
While our We See Equal programs have involved more than 100,000 girls, boys, and community members around the world, there is more work to be done to fully realize change and tap into the leadership potential of girls worldwide and eliminate gender bias.
Legislation has been introduced to address this issue, including the Girls’ Leadership, Engagement, Agency, and Development – or Girls’ LEAD – Act. This bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation would direct the State Department and USAID to develop a global strategy to strengthen the participation of adolescent girls in democracy, human rights, and governance.
Taking action on this issue is critical not just because of the aforementioned economic arguments, but because it’s essential to ensure that girls and women are represented at all levels of decision-making worldwide. As our young girl speakers said, girls are the future of a country and of the world. They are future doctors, CEOs, scientists, and leaders. It is time to listen to them; undoubtedly the world will be all the better for it.