Women empowerment should be on everyone’s agenda. Businesses, governments, and households should do their best to empower women around them so that they participate engage more actively in our future.
I concluded a visit to the United Nations last year as part of our partnership with UN Women to support in the economic empowerment of women around the world.
The event included a great mix of best practices, brilliant new research on the business benefits of gender parity in the workplace, and amazing stories of women that have been able to overcome the odds and succeed at what they do.
A recent study that was conducted by McKinsey & Company identified that a realistic and achievable goal of including more women empowerment and participation in the workforce around the globe could add $12 Trillion to the world economy by 2025!
The actual potential of full women empowerment and inclusion would result in a whopping $28 Trillion of added wealth the equivalent of adding another US and China to the world economy!
Countless other studies show that including women in the workplace, in management positions and on boards always has a net positive impact on the companies’ performance. Women empowerment provides a roadmap for business success.
However, the challenge of getting women more naturally integrated into the workplace is not something that women should address alone.
Men need to lead the way in achieving gender equality, as we are part of the problem and the solution. Some men are not comfortable with the ‘women empowerment’ term since extra entitlements or quotas could be abused. That’s why I prefer using the term ‘gender parity’ or ‘gender equality’ since even though men and women are biologically different, the business landscape doesn’t favor any specific gender. The business landscape benefits from both genders.
Each gender brings their unique skill set to the work environment that enriches and makes it more balanced. It’s not a zero-sum game!
On the other hand, some women are happy in staying at home and spending more time with their families, and that is also a valid choice. In the same way, men should have the choice to do the same if they wish. What’s essential, is that this remains a choice and not the exclusive path. What’s critical for the world, is that both men and women can go in and out of that choice as they progress in their life – sometimes giving more time to their family obligations while at other times focusing more on their work without affecting their promotions or career path.
It is comforting to see that that the workplace itself is changing. Freelancing vs a stable lifetime career is a trend that continues to rise. Starting up businesses from your basement or garage or family room is commonplace. Working from home is an acceptable to many companies. It’s also a great way to earn a passive income.
All these changes allow men and women to make more choices about how they organize their time and priorities thus helping in Women Empowerment.
As a company, we are trying to do our part through our own women empowerment work and through developing educational content for UN Women, we are seeking to:
– raise awareness about basic women rights
– develop key skills that help these women do better economically
– showcase role models that can inspire others.
We also launched our Real World Education methodology which we aim to uses to empower millions. One of our flagship programs is a Women Empowerment program we launched from Saudi Arabia in 2013 – called Hadafi – it has since expanded across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region and reached the Indian Subcontinent. Over 30,000 women have participated in the program to date and hundreds of them have started their businesses through the program.
We are also proud to be amongst the first companies that were signatories of the Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs). These goals provide a roadmap for Women Empowerment within any business:
1. Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
2. Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and non-discrimination
3. Ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all women and men workers
4. Promote education, training and professional development for women
5. Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
6. Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
7. Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality
Many more companies than those that exist today should sign up and be committed to these principles.
A company that is leading the way with women empowerment programs is Cartier. The Cartier Women Initiative Award has partnered with us to educate and engage thousands of women to be part of their great entrepreneurship program. The impact and engagement has been amazing over the past 3 years.
There is no reason for us not to do more as men and women individually, or through our corporates and governments to empower women and support them in realizing their potential. Both men and women should be equal contributors to the economic environment and equal contributors to their families and society. The moral, societal and business benefits are tremendous and we are all impacted by such equality.
Let’s work together toward gender parity through comprehensive women empowerment programs, and hope that our children by 2030 would be proud of our achievements.