Saturday, 17 February 2018

Women's economic empowerment -  how the private sector is engaging

Illuminating, shocking and persuasive – a morning spent on 30 November 2017 at Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, listening to Professor Linda Scott, Emeritus DP Professor for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Said Business School, University of Oxford. It was the launch of her powerfully argued and beautifully presented report Private sector engagement with women’s economic empowerment: lessons learned from years of practice.

Facts such as women carrying out 50% of the world farming, but many not getting paid at all (it is their family duty) and many of those who do, not receiving the money. The challenges of obtaining finance when father or husband do not allow them to obtain an identity card. The lack of channels for getting goods to market - and the money earned for producing it. As Professor Scott said, "The pattern of gender inequality can be seen from space."

But there was good news too, with representatives of multi national companies speaking about empowerment initiatives around the world and how these might be scaled up and replicated. Companies including WalMart, Coca Cola, Goldman Sachs, Qualcomm, Exxon Mobil and PWC. Initiatives that have been developed that balance cultural sensitivities with economic imperatives (stabilising supplies of endangered crops such as chocolate and coffee for example), utilising IT and mobile phones to improve communications, health programmes. A great speaker with welcome touches of humour, Professor Scott succinctly dealt with the myriad of questions and interventions from the floor, ably chaired to maximise the debating time by Chatham House Director, Robin Niblett.

All in all, an excellent morning. But sadly, no examples from construction and engineering despite the clear role in the social value of infrastructure. So now to read that report in detail and see opportunities for contribution. More later.

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