Womenomics: Driving Success and Social Change was the subject of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce Women in Business event held last week. Featuring Jackie VanderBrug, Senior Vice President and Investment Strategist for U.S. Trust, it was a fitting topic for women’s history month.
“The history of women is written in invisible ink,” said Jackie, who led the development of the emerging field of gender lens investing. She has made it her mission to increase the level of awareness on just how powerful an impact women have on our global economy and I certainly applaud her for that. After all, gender equality is smart economics.
She identified four key intersecting areas in which improvements have been notable but where the gender gap is still quite wide globally: access to education; social status and rights; employment; business opportunities and financial services. A sample of statistical data tells the story:
- There are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary schools and women comprise 2/3 of the world’s illiterates;
- While 125 countries outlaw domestic violence, there is a 1 in 3 chance that women will be victims within their lifetimes;
- Though 115 countries guarantee equal property rights, less than 20% of women are landowners;
- Sexual harassment is against the law in 117 countries; yet, over 300 million women are without this legal protection;
- Women are the primary bread winners in 40% of U.S. households, even though they earn only 80% of what men earn.
When it comes to giving, saving, spending and investing, women also make different choices. For example:
- They give both money and time to organizations that are effective, efficient and know how to get things done, especially those that support women and girls.
- Eighty percent of their earnings are spent on human resources—largely their families and communities–compared with 30-40% for men.
- Women make more of the purchasing decisions and they know the socially responsible behavior of the brands they buy. Issues like fair trade pay, who is making our clothes and what ingredients are in the products we use—matter to women. And they are more likely to buy products and services from a woman-owned business.
- Today, women are creating more of the jobs, and are on their way to controlling more of the personal wealth than ever before. And, they are keenly aware of the social and economic impact of their investments.
The idea of investing with a gender lens is to see more clearly how to make better decisions that will create more opportunity. Three areas that could benefit from this focus include access to capital, products and services and workplace equality; these are all areas with plenty of upside opportunity.
Research tells us that organizations with more women in decision-making roles are more profitable, provide a better return on investment and have better safety records, among other benefits. With roughly a billion women, known as the Third Billion, looking to join the global economy as consumers, producers, employees and entrepreneurs, this represents an emerging force bigger than India or China. And when you add in the belief of the millennial generation that the primary purpose of business is to improve society, I can’t help but wonder if the time has finally come in women’s history to level the playing field once and for all.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments and questions. Please like or share this content and reply with your thoughts.
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