October 26, 2016
Guest blog post by Clara Gaymard, CEO, Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society.
The Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society shines light into the murky corners of gender inequality – but that’s not the only thing we do. At our upcoming Women’s Forum Global Meeting (30 November – 2 December in Deauville) and at an ever-expanding array of meetings around the world, we start new conversations and open new territories. We consider what women can do, together with men, to take action for the benefit of all members of society. We examine a wide variety of vital topics that are no more women’s topics than they are men’s…with the critical difference that, in our debates, women are at the front of the room.
If the Women’s Forum has any single message to convey, it’s that we must stop seeing gender inequality as simply a moral or societal problem, a problem that might be remedied by passing a law or “doing the right thing” on a case-by-case basis. We prefer to shift the debate to the economic sphere, to do the math. Women account for half the world’s working-age population. As more women enter the economy, poverty declines and economic growth increases. The figures don’t lie. A recent McKinsey report, which was presented and much discussed at our recent Women’s Forum meetings, points out, by advancing women’s equality, $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025.
Time after time, experience has proven that if women are allowed control over their life choices; if they have access to education and healthcare; if they have equal access to financial credit and economic resources — then culturally, socially, financially, their entire communities will suddenly and spectacularly perform better, across every kind of quantifiable marker of social progress.
So don’t be alarmed if, from time to time, our discussions focus on how women can integrate fully into political, economic, and social processes. Considering how long women have had the short end of the stick, you can’t blame us for wanting to come together to do something about it.
Sometimes people ask if the Women’s Forum is “still necessary”. They point to examples of women’s progress, as if that progress somehow renders our meetings ineffectual or, worse, obsolete. Frankly, this kind of logic escapes me. If we are, in fact, making progress, shouldn’t we get together so we can make more progress? And if some of us are not so lucky, then shouldn’t we keep meeting so we can create more opportunities for more women?
We must not let the ill winds from the current global economic downturn blow us off course. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the barriers preventing women from advancing in their careers or, more dramatically, from being a part of the workforce. We must continue to demonstrate how the empowerment of women can unlock sustainable growth, which can in turn lead to lasting progress. Our future – for the Women’s Forum, for women, for all of us – depends on it.