March 8 is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is #Balance for Better.
Balance is not a women’s issue, but rather a business issue, the campaign suggests. “Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”
Creating business solutions to poverty by providing economic empowerment to vulnerable populations, including women and youth, is a major focus of MEDA’s work.
The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap report suggests that 89 of the 144 countries covered saw improvements towards gender equality in the past two years. But there is still a long way to go towards equality, as a 32 per cent average gender gap remains to be closed.“Gaps in control of financial assets and in time spent on unpaid tasks continue to preserve economic disparities between men and women,” the report says. “Women have as much access to financial services as men in just 60 per cent of the countries and to land ownership in just 42 per cent of the countries addressed.”
There are still 44 countries where over 20 per cent of women are illiterate.
At the current rate of progress, it will take 108 years to close the global gender gap in 106 countries.
Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world, followed by Norway and Sweden. Yemen, Pakistan and Iraq are the three nations with the worst gender gaps.
MEDA staff are occasionally asked why we put so much emphasis on empowering women. There is a strong economic case to be made, on several levels.
A study by McKinsey, a worldwide management consulting firm, suggests that $28 trillion could be added to annual global GDP (gross domestic product) if women participated in the economy at the same level as men.
To put that in context, $28 trillion is the combined current output of the US and China, the world’s two largest economies.
Last fall, Economic Gains from Gender Inclusion: New Mechanisms, New Evidence, a staff paper written for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) found that decreasing barriers that prevent women from entering the workforce and narrowing participation gaps between women and men will likely produce even larger economic gains than was previously understood.
Several stories in this issue (see pp. 10-15) explore MEDA’s efforts to promote gender equity. For a visual primer on the difference between equality and equity, see the graphic on the back cover of this issue.
A recent issue of Fortune magazine had an extensive series of stories on the withering away of America’s middle class, including causes, tales of people affected and suggested solutions.
A short blurb that catches the eye dealt with a subject most of us don’t consider: the plight of people who don’t have bank accounts, 8.4 million households in the US. Your Money is No Good Here discusses the increasing number of businesses that won’t accept cash.
Currently, Massachusetts is the only US state to pass a right to use cash law. New Jersey and other states are apparently considering following suit.
Conversations about faith and work exclude two-thirds of the American workforce, Jeff Haanen notes in a provocative, widely-read article.
Haanen, CEO and founder of the Denver Institute for Faith & Work, explores this challenging reality in his article God of the Second Shift: The missing majority in the faith and work conversation. His piece, published last fall, was the second-most read story online at Christianity Today’s website last year.