Activating One Billion Women
By Rachel Pohl
Imagine a world where one billion extra people participated in local, national and global economies. The potential impact on the global economy would be as great as that of the populations of China and India – if we could just activate this human resource.
This is the goal of La Pietra Coalition’s Third Billion campaign: a global alliance of corporations, governments, NGOs, academics, foundations and individuals dedicated to preparing and enabling one billion women to participate fully in the global economy over the next decade. February 1 marked the successful launch of the campaign in New York City, an event featuring Beth Brooke, Alyse Nelson, David Browning, Victoria Kisyombe, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Pierella Paci, DeAnne Aguirre and Claudia Parsons at Thomson Reuters headquarters.
Sandra Taylor, senior director of La Pietra Coalition, noted that “the Third Billion Campaign is less about government advocacy and much more about really raising public awareness as broadly and visually as we can.” Initiatives will provide women with access to legal protection, finance, education, training and markets.
The idea of tapping this great economic potential began with Booz and Company’s analysis of International Labor Organization (ILO) data in May of 2010. The impact of women on the global economy will be at least as significant as that of China's and India's one-billion-plus populations, respectively. That is to say, if women's economical potential could be successfully harnessed, it would be the equivalent to adding an extra one billion people into the work force who could contribute to the global economy. As stated in the report:
Their presence as economic actors will be widely felt, because they have long been overrepresented in the ranks of subsistence agriculture and other resource-based forms of work. As they move into knowledge work, in domains ranging from manufacturing to medicine to education to information technology, their sheer numbers will hasten the integration of the regions where they live into the larger economy.
This research reflected La Pietra Coalition’s previous work on advancing women economically. Both Booz and Company and La Pietra Coalition have recognized that women are a great investment. “Women can drive economic growth. I think for the average person, whether they agree or not, everyone wants a better quality of life and a better standard of living,” said Taylor.
Why women? And why now? Women’s progress is global progress. “Investing in women is the key to getting out of this economic crisis we’re in,” Taylor said. At the launch, Pieralla Paci, Sector Manager of the Gender and Development Group at the World Bank, said, “only 38 of 141 countries in a @WorldBank study show that economic gender equality exists in legislation."
The biggest challenges for success are social and cultural norms – changing ideas or beliefs that are institutionalized within culture. These changes go hand-in-hand with access to education. “We must work to make sure women are prepared despite social and cultural norms that inhibit girls from finishing secondary school,” said Taylor. “Getting girls prepared, in addition to women entrepreneurs, is critical.”
Creating opportunities for women means improving everyone’s quality of living through global economic growth. The campaign can help women in both developing and developed countries. It will mean using modern communication techniques, marketing and online communication to spread the word to both grassroots organizations and leaders, and to bring in more supporters. Scaling up existing programs could result in the creation of 50% more jobs for women.
What is the next step? In the first year, the goal is to spread awareness. “We will partner with corporations and NGOs to raise public awareness and advocate for the economic needs of women and the vital role women can play in economies,” said Taylor. “The future will involve scaling up existing programs and bringing more partners to do work on the ground.”
As Vital Voices program alumna Victoria Kisyombe said: "We can all do something, no matter how small, to unleash a lot of potential."
To get involved with the Third Billion, visit their website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
Sign La Pietra Coalition’s petition to the G-20
Read more about the launch of the Third Billion: