Investing in Women, The Next Step in Global Development

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by Joseph Andres, class of 2021

The largest remaining area of untapped potential, capable of driving growth in the 21st-century is women. A recent McKinsey publication stated that if full gender parity is reached by 2025, global GDP will increase above current expectations by 11%. Put a different way, unchecked sexism across the globe will cost an estimated $2 trillion in lost earnings over the next 5 years. Approximately half of the doctoral degrees awarded today are earned by women. Yet women submitted less than 13% of patents globally for 2019. A 2018 Microsoft study found that young girls are twice as likely to enter science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields when they have early exposure to female role models. The positive effect of female role models is not limited to STEM professions. Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 US presidential election spurred more women to run and win in the subsequent 2018 elections than at any other point in US history.

Tackling extreme poverty has been a global priority for decades. Between 1990 and 2015 the percentage of people living on less than $2 a day dropped from 36% to 10%. Young women are disproportionately affected as they make up a majority of those living on so little. Hoisting themselves up, women in developing economies, are the primary drivers for economic development in their local communities. Data published by the UN and the World Bank shows that 90% of profits generated by women get reinvested into the local economy. For men in similar situations, approximately 35% of profits are reinvested. In an effort to maximize economic multipliers, microfinance programs targeting female entrepreneurs in Africa, Latin America, and Asia see stronger and more resilient results compared to programs where gender does not play a role.

Empowering women has economic advantages beyond developing economies. From 2002 through 2014 just 80 CEOs leading S&P 500 companies were women. Over that time period, those companies outperformed the other male lead S&P 500 firms by an astounding 226%. The financial advantages of including women in leadership do not stop at the top job. Companies with boards that include at least one woman have a 95% likelihood of meeting financial targets. Whereas all-male lead firms have only a 65% chance of achieving their targets. The advantage of hiring women at top firms is not merely a dollar and sense decision. Employees at companies where gender diversity is prioritized, also report a higher level of overall job satisfaction.

Directly addressing the elephant in the room, sexism plays a prominent role in the daily lives of women globally. While this blight on society needs to be corrected, it has had some unintended advantages. It is a well-established fact that women face more discrimination compared to men. Further, when women achieve success, they are scrutinized more closely and criticized more heavily. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren addressed this during a recent Democratic presidential primary debate. Fellow candidate Amy Klobuchar, along with Ms. Warren, are objectively better politicians compared to the male primary opponents. Both Senator Warren and Senator Klobuchar have won every general election race they have entered. None of their male primary opponents can say the same. Because of sexism, a woman needs to work harder than a man to get a seat at the table. Societal, cultural, and economic pressures force women to possess a strong sense of determination and persistence to compete today. Supporting female success will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Greater numbers of successful women mean more female leaders and role models for the next generation of young girls.

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