I wish you had been there to join us in an exciting exploration of a new way to look at the advancement and empowerment of women. The Demos Women’s Leadership Initiative Forum series sponsored our 10th event, “Gender Equality as an Investment Concept” to look at how and why it is smart business to invest in women as a means to increase performance, profitability and sustainability.
While I am writing this blog posting, the Congress is debating the economic stimulus package--a critically important step but not a sufficient one. The heavy emphasis on creating infrastructure jobs on highways and with bricks and mortar isn’t forward-thinking enough. We can create jobs for women as well as men – good ones – by supporting the growth of women-owned business, by making sure that libraries, schools, hospitals, day care centers and clinics are not forced to lay people off, and by requiring gender equality measures when the money is doled out.
It’s time to focus on the business case for the future: the corporate sector and the economy can benefit enormously from tapping the growth potential of focusing on gender equality. Here’s a thumbnail introduction of the three panelists who shared their views with a diverse audience of 110 people on January 22, 2009:
• Joe Keefe, President and CEO of Pax World Funds runs the oldest socially responsible investment firm including the Women’s Equity Fund. WEF is the first, and so far the only, mutual fund that looks at gender criteria (as well as financial, environmental, social and governance criteria) when investing for long term gains because of a strong belief that companies that tap women’s talents will be both profitable and sustainable. www.paxworld.com
• Anne Black, Vice President of Goldman, Sachs serves as the Program Director for the 10,000 Women Initiative which is a five-year, $100 million investment to provide management and business education for women worldwide in an integrated approach which is now operating with partnerships in 18 countries. Goldman sees supporting women’s advancement as a critical component in global growth. www.10000women.org
• Ritu Sharma, Co-founder and CEO of Women Thrive Worldwide is a powerful advocate on gender and poverty issues in the international arena and on US foreign policy. She is also a co-chair of the Women, Faith and Development Initiative. Women Thrive’s leadership is leading to a change in international development aid toward closing the gender gap and providing women with resources to support their families, create jobs, and reach markets. www.womensedge.org
As I moderated this forum, the facts that these experts presented make a strong case for thinking anew about what can re-start our economy – and it turns on its head the customary belief that roads and bridges are the best answer to grow future economic success. While it is still almost a secret – the key is women. The research is compelling.
• Companies with the most women in management outperform those with the least across five industries: return on equity by 53%, return on sales by 42% and return on invested capital by 66% (Catalyst).
• Closing the male-female employment gap has huge economic implications with the potential to boost the US GDP by 9%. We certainly could use that boost! (Goldman, Sachs).
• There are 1.3 Billion adults in the world living on less than $1.00 per day. Micro-credit programs, although very important, aren’t enough. One woman in a factory supports 8-10 people in the village. Social and economic development go hand-in-hand. For example, in Uganda, investing in potable water and woodlots can free up to 6 months of time for women (900 hours/year) which could then be utilized in the economy. (Women Thrive Worldwide).
As Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s CEO said in announcing their 10,000 Women Initiative, “We are disciplined in our investments, and when you get to the topic of trying to invest and create GDP, there is no better or more efficient investment than the investment you make in women.”
Keep tuned for further Demos Women’s Leadership Initiative Forums to shed light on gender equality as an investment concept by bringing you the best experts and opportunities for discussion. As one participant said, “This is about real growth, not some Kumbaya Factor.”
The Demos Women’s Leadership Initiative highlights fresh thinking, research and writing about the importance of women’s advancement and leadership in building a strong democracy and securing economic prosperity.
Demos thanks our panelists and the co-sponsors for this forum: Ms. Foundation for Women, Pax World Mutual Funds, the National Council for Research on Women, Women Thrive Worldwide, The New York Women’s Foundation and the Financial Women’s Association.