By Madeleine White, capacity building specialist and co-founder of Nina Magazine
“Emerging markets will be a driving force in sustainable economic growth. If civil society is fully and inclusively engaged in the economy, the significant population growth rate will lead to greater consumption and therefore greater economic growth. Cash rich emerging markets with an inclusive approach to prosperity will be ideally placed to become economic trailblazers.”
Nouriel Roubini, global macroeconomic strategy expert and former senior White House economist
Vancouver, May 7th, The Next Billion Conference.
A unique opportunity, a global dialogue – with the aim of moving gender inclusion beyond the ‘nice to have’, to the ‘must have’, driven by a hard financial evidence. The conference aligned global thought leaders, policy makers and economists with key data. With women cited by experts as the largest emerging economy in the world, the question of the power of long term strategic investment in inclusion and diversity is beyond doubt. What is less clear though, is how to realise this potential for growth in terms of national and economic advantage – the Next Billion Conference was all about taking steps to make it happen…
To contexualise this in terms of Iraq. In March’s Middle East Congress, the region’s richest oil resources were cited as belonging to Iraq. At the moment 50% of its other richest natural resource – its people, are not engaging within the country’s economic activity. Less than 1% of managers in Iraq are women, just 17% of women are engaged as entrepreneurs or employees.
Alexander Meira da Rosa , VP for countries of the Inter-American Development Bank, was able to explain that the significant economic growth enjoyed by countries such as Brazil, which at one point had battled with a similarly challenging gender gap, was driven in part by the burgeoning economic participation of its women. By understanding that gender is an economic development issue and instituting a pro-women policy in dealings in partnership with government and private sector investors, he shared that regionally this gender gap had closed by 70%.
Indeed, the importance of partnerships was at the heart of most discussions. The idea of a collaborative national and international approach in terms of closing the gender gap – with policy advocacy, business profits and social impact forming a triangle of success, was championed by many speakers, including former US Ambassador for Global women’s issues, Melanne Verveer, and Accenture’s Marianne Schoenig. Other key points of peer-to-peer guidance, within this strongly evidenced-based dialogue, included:
- Women in leadership and on boards – the significant financial return was highlighted (40% greater profitability with women on the board)
- Women as successful entrepreneurs
- Access to finance needed to be improved– examples of significant return on investment by assessing risk levels of women-owned business and answering their specific needs, led to marked profitability for Itau Unibanco for example.
- By ensuring women-owned business were part of the inclusion and supply chain, stronger communities and more profitable business practices were shared by the corporations, including HP and Accenture.
- Unilever cited significant return on investment by providing a safe working environment for women; project Shakti which has created 50,000 rural women entrepreneurs in India, was given as an example of how women focused policy could drive corporate brand message and profits.
- The importance of a relevant, forward-looking education came up frequently with responsibility for individual learning and access to technology being particular priorities.
- Large corporations incorporating horizontal and vertical strategy in terms of work culture: