New UN Women Report Published

Every five years or so, the United Nations publishes a compendium of facts, statistics and analysis of the status of women around the world. These Progress of the World’s Women reports share statistics related to education, legal justice, social and political empowerment, and economic empowerment. They are truly go-to reports that deserve a spot on every womenabler’s reference shelf.fig.4.6-1

The latest report has recently been published. Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights features an interactive web portal and downloadable chapters, some very detailed (see picture at right) infographics, as well as the full report.

Some of what’s available in this report:

  • A discussion of the negative impact on women’s rights that has resulted from the rise of extremism around the world;
  • The notion that connecting economic and social policy is key to increasing human potential and equal rights (we would agree);
  • Far fewer detailed country-level tables (which we are disappointed by, but they may be archived somewhere); and
  • A listing of ten priorities for public action, including “create more and better jobs for women” (but no mention of economic empowerment through entrepreneurship).

For a list and links to past reports on the Progress of the World’s Women, visit Womenable’s Womenabler Reference Library page. or UN Women’s Progress of the World’s Women page. Finally, here’s a handy link to the 2015 report Executive Summary.

Hashtag Feminism Putting #WomenontheMap

Video

These days, social conversations reverberate quickly around the globe on social media, spawning the term “hashtag activism.” Within that genre, hashtag feminism is alive and well (there’s even a web site, hashtagfeminism.com, that comments on the most viral tags). Earlier this month, I pointed out that the #internationalwomensday theme for 2015 was #MakeItHappen, which thus allowed people to search for this tag to learn about what events were taking place on IWD2015 around the world.

Some of the most popular recent women’s empowerment hashtags have been protests against misogyny (#NotBuyingIt, #GirlsCount, #WomenShould, #YesAllWomen and its corollary #AllMenCan) or calls to support and amplify female voices and change agents (#AllinforHer and #ChangetheRatio are two of the most well-known).

There are three new hashtags, though, that I’d like to point out – as they have the potential to dominate the “airwaves” in the months to come:

1. @UN_Women’s #HeforShe, a call for men to rally and join in on the fight for gender equality. This hashtag campaign was launched by Gen Y’s feminist heroine, Emma Watson. (Check out her eloquent address at a recent United Nations event below.)

2. The Clinton and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations’ recent launch of the No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project report, a data- and video-driven web portal (and, oh yes, a report) launched with great fanfare at a splashy event on March 9, with its accompanying #NotThere social media campaign featuring well-known portraits, magazine covers etc. with women missing – making the point that we’re not there yet with respect to gender equality. Check out the humorous short video illustrating that point.

3. A grassroots, youth-led effort by SPARK Movement to put #WomenontheMap – literally. This group has partnered with Google to map the locations of important women in history around the work on Google’s FieldTrip app. The app will notify users when they are near a landmark location. What a fantastic concept – and there’s room for more. SPARK asks for our help in sharing with them important women (no longer living) to add to the app. Let’s let them have it, shall we? Learn more here.

#MakeItHappen on March 8

March 8 marks the celebration of International Women’s Day. The observance began in the early 1900’s to support equal rights for women – including protesting employment discrimination, ending World War I, and voting rights. In early years the celebration date varied somewhat from country to country, but came to be marked on March 8 after a widespread strike in Russia on that date in 1917. And while, in early years the celebration was associated with socialism, its appeal has broadened and is now an official holiday in over a dozen countries. (Read a short history of the day here.)centredinternationalwomensday

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is “Make It Happen.” The United Nations has a somewhat wordier theme this year: “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It!”.

There are now nearly 500 events registered in nearly 40 countries on the International Women’s Day information hub as of now, with over 1,000 expected by March 8. Check out the list and find out about an event near you – or organize your own.

And, don’t forget to share your #womensday activities on social media using the suggested hashtags: #makeithappen, #womensday, #internationalwomensday, #IWD2015, or #PaintItPurple. (Why purple? find out here.) Share photos, too. For photographic inspiration, check out this photo gallery assembled by Thomson Reuters.

Here’s to an inspiring International Women’s Day, during which you will make something happen!

Economic Inequality Costing Women Trillions

A report just out from UK’s ActionAid estimates the cost of inequality in women’s work around the globe, and it is truly staggering. The report, Close the gap! The cost of inequality in women’s work, released during the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, puts the gender wage and employment gap at $16.9 trillion USD – including $9.1 trillion for women in developing economies and $7.8 trillion for women in developed economies. The gap takes into account both lower levels of women’s labor force participation and wages.Income differences between men and women

The report’s publication has been noted in a recent article in The Guardian and in an ActionAid-authored article on Thomson-Reuters. Let’s see if the gauntlet thrown down by the report’s call to action section are picked up by their intended audiences: not just economic policy-makers but businesses, civil society organizations and development institutions. Personally, while I’m not holding my breath, the publication of a quantifiable estimate of the financial cost to women of economic inequality is a significant step forward.

Grist for the Mill: Supporting Growth-Oriented Women Entrepreneurs

There’s increasing interest in moving beyond supporting the entry of more women into business ownership, toward a greater understanding of what growth-oriented women business owners need to get to the next level in their entrepreneurial journey. There are two new reports that shed some light on this issue.

gristmillFirst, infoDev, a multi-donor program in the World Bank Group, recently published Growing Women-led Enterprises in the Mekong: Testing a Methodology for Accelerating Growth. This report, supported by the government of Finland, pilot tested a series of workshops, peer-to-peer sessions and one-on-one coaching over a six-month period in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam.

Secondly, the World Bank’s Trade and Competitiveness group also just published a policy note entitled, Supporting Growth-Oriented Women Entrepreneurs: A Review of Evidence and Key Challenges, which draws upon and synthesizes existing research from within and outside the Bank.

Each of these reports is well worth reading on their own, but what is perhaps most interesting and relevant is that they draw some similar conclusions:

  • Short-term training with little or no follow-up does not always lead to measurable business growth. This can be a funding challenge for defined-length, externally sponsored projects and speaks of the need for a greater focus on sustainability measures and local partnerships;
  • Established women business owners benefit greatly from peer-to-peer learning. Merely providing networking opportunities for women business owners can reap valuable rewards;
  • Selecting women who are “growth-oriented” can be challenging: mindsets may matter as much as recent performance; and
  • Existing programs are very heterogeneous, with a wide variety of interventions. This reduces the ability to draw conclusions about what works best and share lessons learned.

Adding to this new information is some research conducted by Womenable way back in 2007, Mapping the Missing Middle: Determining the Desire and Dimensions of Second-Stage Women Business Owners, which not only raised the point that not enough policy and programmatic attention was being paid to established women-owned firms that had not yet cracked the million-dollar revenue barrier, but sized this population at between 16% (if defined to include firms with employees or between $100,000 and $1 million in revenues) and fully 91% (if having employees and revenues over $100,000 was not a criterion) of the entire women-owned business population. A short survey was conducted among established women business owners in the United States and found that “missing middle” women business owners:

  • Were indeed mostly growth-oriented – 64% were in search of tools for business growth;
  • Had a much greater appetite for information than the average woman business owner; and
  • Wanted to learn from one another, would prefer just-in-time, experiential learning over classroom-style information, and would value the guidance of a mentor.

We applaud this increased focus on providing “grist for the mill” of business growth – and for the grist provided by these two new reports!