Women in the Global Economy: Authoring Chapters, Advancing Social Change

In September 2011, I had the good fortune to participate in the first-ever Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women in the Economy Summit. This historic event was driven by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and like so many initiatives launched during her time in office, it was designed not only to inspire, but to spur action for change. As I listened to Secretary Clinton and other dynamic speakers—women who had achieved the highest levels of success and impact in business, government, and civil society—the idea for a book was born.

One year ago, I began with a blank sheet of paper and considered an outline. What eight topics could form a book about women and their place in the global economy? I thought about the many topics and women leaders that inspire me and might also inspire others. As the book’s outline began to take shape, I reached out to a handful of incredible women, some new and some familiar. Whether we’d met before or were speaking for the first time, what amazed me about these women—aside from their intelligence and achievements—was their eagerness to sign on, to write a chapter, to add more work to their already full plates—all with the common goal of making a difference by sharing their experiences.

“Women in the Global Economy: Leading Social Change” explores the landscape of women’s participation in the economy and the key role women’s involvement plays in fueling economic growth through the creation of stable societies. It covers the transformation that has gained a foothold in recent years, where investing in women is increasingly seen as a driver for social and economic development. In publishing this book, the IIE aims to teach corporate leaders, policy makers, and educators best practices, while also encouraging them to promote women’s economic and social participation through the implementation of effective programs.

The book draws its strength from its diverse array of voices, including that of former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, who opens the conversation with a call for “more knowledge on best practices to further our investment in women and girls.”

Later, Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO of Women’s World Banking, addresses the progress made in terms of women’s access to microfinance. She highlights tools such as mobile banking as a means to enhance the financial future of women.

Offering a grassroots perspective, Arwa Othman, a Yemeni activist, recounts joining protests in the heart of the Arab Spring in Sana’a, and addresses the status of women in a changing region.

And a chapter on market-based approaches, authored by CGI’s Associate Director of Commitments and Head of Girls & Women Penny Abeywardena, highlights how public-private partnerships are expanding markets, and in turn, opportunities for women as well.

The willingness of the authors to take on yet another project in their very busy lives made me consider just how collaborative and happy to give back most of us are at our core. In fact, I encountered similar enthusiasm and generosity during my conversations with women in Silicon Valley about their experiences as mentors to emerging women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa through IIE’s work on TechWomen. This led me to begin designing an initiative promoting women’s participation in information communications technology (ICT) last fall.

In partnership with Senior Advisor for Women and Technology at the U.S. Department of State Ann Mei Chang, and working with an array of partners from the corporate and NGO sectors, our goal is to build the pipeline of girls and women entering ICT studies and careers, and at the same time, address this pipeline’s leaks, focusing on India, Kenya, and Brazil. We hope to accomplish this by establishing a strong support network of women in ICT, locally and across borders; by offering additional trainings and job opportunities; and by creating a more woman-friendly academic and corporate ICT culture, ultimately improving the retention and advancement of women in the field.

This project is crucial: In emerging economies, the rise of ICT as a new sector offers the opportunity to recast the perception of the field in gender-neutral—or even women-oriented—terms. Breaking the male-dominated bastion is important to attract and retain more women in the ICT field, meet the growing talent needs of the sector, and in so doing, drive overall economic growth. With computer-related positions growing at twice the rate of others, ICT offers the jobs of today, and of tomorrow. The time to build that pipeline is now.

It’s still early, but we have established an exciting consortium of companies, governments, and NGOs dedicated to leveraging our collective ideas and resources to impact women and girls on three different continents. After editing this latest book–and due to our work through CGI, which recognizes the opportunity to elevate and promote women in high-growth sectors like ICT—I’m more confident than ever that organizations across sectors are invested in making an impact. As leaders, giving back is in our nature. And as global citizens, it’s in our best interests.

To purchase IIE’s book “Women in the Global Economy: Leading Social Change,” visit IIE Books.

Crossposted at the Clinton Global Initiative Blog