Apr 292015
Cherie Blair

Cherie Blair

Belinda Gates

Belinda Gates

This year(2015) women made up just 17% of the 2,500 attendees – the same level as two years ago.  Why would this seem unfair?  It is a reality that women not only at Davos are under-represented but this happens throughout the male-dominated world.

The 17% Difference!

We must also look beyond the figures. We must remember that those women who are being heard on such stages are having an enormous impact. Melinda Gates, for example, injected a powerful note of optimism into a session which looked at ‘Ending Poverty through Parity’. Her analysis of why we should invest in women should serve as a reminder to everyone that women’s economic empowerment is an issue that benefits us all. “If you invest in a girl or a woman, you are investing in everybody else,” she said, noting that women tend to plough 90% of their income back into their families. “If we don’t do this, we don’t unlock the potential of what you can do for a family, society and a country”   She spoke about how mobile phones have the power to deliver financial services to women across the world. At my Foundation we have seen this logic in action – we are currently delivering a project in partnership with Visa, for example, which will empower 2,500 women in Nigeria to become agents in a mobile banking retail chain.

Foundations & Powerful Friendly Institutions.

The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

This foundation empowers women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies to become successful business owners and, in doing so, drive development in their own countries. Jill Hunter from Accenture joins The Claire Blaire Foundation on a joint project. Both groups hope to give 15,000 women in Rwanda the confidence, capability and access to capital they need to become successful business owners.

Sheryl Sandberg and Angélica Fuentes

Sheryl Sandberg spoke about her latest initiative to extend internet connectivity to women across the world, whilst Latin American businesswoman and philanthropist Angélica Fuentes hosted an inspirational evening which brought together a range of people from private and public sectors to discuss women’s entrepreneurship.

Bank of America is another large corporation that remains vocal and visible on the issue of women’s empowerment. Its Global Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Anne Finucane, has spoken out about the importance of mentorship in the fight for gender equality – another theme that cropped up in discussions at Davos this year.

Bank of America recruit emerging leaders within its organisation to be mentors to women entrepreneurs in developing countries via the Mentoring Women in Business Programme that my Foundation runs. It’s a win-win strategy that benefits everyone: the women mentees, the mentors (who are both men and women) and the bank as a whole, which uses the mentoring experience as a valuable tool for staff development and retention.

Creating Safe Places

One of the many discussions was about creating safe spaces for women to connect. Other talks whereon monitoring pay equality and changing the culture of an organisation so that gender parity becomes a priority for everyone, rather than being seen as just a ‘women’s issue’.

Empowering Women World Wide

Businesses must continue to take up their share of the work of empowering women across the world. Indeed, it will take strong leadership from every sector to ensure that 2015 becomes a decisive year for gender equality – and that includes leadership from men as well. This was the message delivered by UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who arrived in Davos with the UN’s Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson to launch the next phase of the dynamic campaign, HeForShe, which aims to bring men into the fight for gender equality. Because whilst it is important that women’s voices continue to drive conversations about gender equality, men must also become active agents in this work.

Conclusion by paula:  Let us do what we can to support these organizations.  For birthday, weddings, Christmas and other festivities, we can give a gift of:  chickens, animals, small business venture capital for women.  Let us empower women, too.


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