A few months ago while I was speaking at an event, an audience member – a woman in her 60s - asked me what I thought was different today in the fight to achieve gender equality. I responded that, “we have a perfect storm.” With her indulgence I went on to explain that never before have all cylinders been firing at the same time –individuals like the PM of Japan, Bill Gates, Christine Lagarde, organizations like the United Way Worldwide and Bono’s ONE, Foundations led by women like Güler Sabanci of Turkey and Jennifer Buffet in the US, blue chip companies including They Royal Bank, Estee Lauder and Google and institutions namely, The World Bank, ILO and OECD have all elevated the need (not desire), to invest in girls and women, to engage women in public policy and political office and to recognize and employ women in the highest ranking positions – as CEOs and Directors of Boards.
While we are headed in the right direction, reality keeps us honest about the progress that has been made and that we may be winning the battle to get people to pay attention, but, we have not yet won the war on action.
Despite the advances that have been made, on a global scale, women continue to be more economically disadvantaged, experience more violence, earn less and are underrepresented in positions of leadership in all sectors and they continue to face financial, social cultural and political barriers. To change the narrative we must do things differently and we must be targeted in our approach.
With this in mind, in 2010, G(irls)20 became the first social enterprise to target the G20 and push for an increase in female labor force participation (FLFP) as a key to economic growth (not to mention the impact FLFP has on political stability and social innovation). In making our case, we rely heavily on the concept of maximizing untapped potential.
We look at the potential impact working women have on a country’s GDP; raising the female labor force participation rate (FLFPR) to country-specific male levels would, for instance, raise GDP in the United States by 5 percent, in Japan by 9 percent, in the United Arab Emirates by 12 percent, and in Egypt by 34 percent.
We look at the potential impact in the private sector when women are in positions of leadership; companies with at least three women on the board outperform those with none by 46%.
In the political arena we drive home the fact that where more women are in political office, there is less corruption.
As we prepare for the G20 Leaders Summit set to take place in Turkey this coming November, we are moving from a discussion of potential to a plan of action. We now have a commitment from the G20 Leaders to increase female labor force participation by 2025 by 100 million women.
In partnership with the private sector, social profit enterprises and NGOs, G(irls)20 will respond to the G20 Leaders commitment with our own Summit. Featuring a female delegate aged 18-23 from each G20 country, the African and European Unions and other invited states, delegates will offer a set of practical recommendations that focus on creating decent work for women so that these 100 million jobs are long term, stable and pay fairly.
One set of G20 leaders is pre-dominantly male, older than 50 and half way or nearing the end of their professional careers. The other set of G20 leaders are all female, less than 1/2 the age of the other G20 and are at the beginning of their professional careers. Both groups are committed to generating solutions that yield positive outcomes for current and future generations.
As we move toward a time when the number of people over the age of 60 will exceed the number of children under the age of 10, ensuring that we tap the potential of both groups is key to our success.
Age does matter.
We must harness the creativity of the experienced and the novice.
We cannot afford to lose the wisdom that comes with age and experience, nor the enthusiasm and unbiased optimism that youth holds for the future..
And finally, as we look at the impact of engaging more women in the economy it is incumbent on us to look back on what has worked as well as, push forward for what can and should be.
About the author
A social profit entrepreneur, Farah Mohamed created G(irls)20 and now serves as its CEO. G(irls)20 galvanizes the world's greatest resource – girls and women – and cultivates a new generation of leaders through education, entrepreneurship and global experiences.
G(irls)20 provides advice on female labour force participation to the G20 and Business20.