The Global Ambassadors Program, a Vital Voices and Bank of America partnership to support and train outstanding women leaders is just the kind of collaborative initiative that can help turn the aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular number 5 – achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls – into reality. These amazing, committed women have a multiplier effect in their companies, communities and countries to create prosperity and peace.
While it may seem unbelievable in 2016, there is not one country in the world where gender equality has yet been achieved. Indeed, the World Bank’s annual Women, Business and the Law report – the legacy I am most proud of from my time as lead specialist, Gender, at the World Bank – points out 90 percent of countries still have at least one gender discriminatory law on the books.
McKinsey’s Power of Parity report estimates that this is bad economics as well as a travesty of justice. The report estimates that between $12-27 trillion in global GDP is forgone as a direct result of gender inequality. The need to change this and to promote women’s leadership is fundamental to create a better future not just for women, but for everyone. Vital Voices and Bank of America have come together to create a powerful, practical mentoring and leadership program that addresses this critical issue directly and builds the capacity of women leaders to pay it forward.
My experience as a mentor for the Global Ambassadors Program initiative in Sydney this past week has been both humbling and inspirational. Watching the transformation of 10 already extraordinary women from across the Asia Pacific region into even stronger change agents fills me with hope that together we will make headway in advancing women in all spheres, including economic opportunity, political and public leadership, and human rights.
My mentee, Van Anh, runs a leading NGO focused on ending violence and discrimination against women and children in Vietnam. I learned as much from her as I was able to teach her. Another mentee, Khin Chaw Su Win, is a business development mover and shaker in Myanmar’s seafarer industry. And then there’s Brianne West of New Zealand, a serial entrepreneur and driving force behind Ethique, a bottle-free personal care product company that’s saving millions of plastic containers from being dumped into the ocean.
I came away so inspired by Van Anh, Chaw and Brianne, and all of the other mentees and Global Ambassadors, taking on the challenges of growth and changing the face of business and social enterprise in new, innovative and sustainable ways. These women leading change in their communities are the solution. And partnerships like the Global Ambassadors Program are vital to creating the secure and prosperous world we all want to live in.
Listen to Amanda’s interview with Peter Ryan, senior business editor for ABC News.