The Business Case
The Business Case
Equal access to education for all people is an essential element of economic growth. Increasing women’s access to secondary, tertiary, non-traditional and continuing education enlarges a country’s labour force, engages previously untapped talent, and as a result, increases GDP.
Promoting global economic growth
The McKinsey Global Institute recently found that in the 95 countries analysed, women generate 37% of global GDP despite accounting for 50% of the global working age population. They identified a “full potential scenario” in which 240 million workers would hypothetically be added through higher female participation. Women represent a huge resource pool that must be utilised to maximise GDP.
The key to reaching this potential is education: women still attain less than 75% of the educational levels of men in 17 out of the 95 countries studied. Globally, 195 million fewer adult women than men are literate; two-thirds of the illiterate population globally are women. Every additional year of school a woman attends increases her wages by an average of 12%. If girls are able to go to school, they are better equipped to enter the job market, secure high-skilled jobs and make productive contributions to the economy. Further, working mothers are also positive role models for their daughters. In one study of 24 countries, daughters of working mothers were more likely to be employed, have higher earnings and hold supervisory roles.
This form of economic growth will also promote economic development, through decreasing poverty and income inequality, while at the same time increasing health outcomes. Educating women and girls stands to bring huge returns on individual, national and global scales.
Women in STEM
Despite women’s increased participation in tertiary education, women are drastically underrepresented in professional Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. This gender imbalance is aggravated by work conditions, pay disparities between men and women, and a stereotype that men are better suited to working in STEM fields than women.
The presence of more women in STEM leads to increased innovation, competitiveness, and creativity. A more diverse workforce is stronger, more flexible, and overall better equipped to meet the challenges of the future by addressing the needs of all members of society.
Members of the STEM community should encourage more women to contribute their knowledge and skills to these fields must actively change the unconscious bias towards men in STEM fields. Programmes addressing the gender gap in STEM must aim to increase girls’ entry into STEM and ensure that they remain in the field. One effective way of doing this is to increase the amount of female teachers in STEM. Female teachers act as mentors and positive role models for girls and young women in this field.
Women as business leaders
Huge gender gaps exist for women in business leadership. Women hold 12% of board seats worldwide and women chair only 4% of companies globally. Despite this, gender-balanced boards make good business sense: leveraging diversity increases the amount of perspectives at the top and broadens the focus of a board. According to a recent study, when Fortune-500 companies were ranked by the number of women directors on their boards, those in the highest quartile in 2009 reported a 42% greater return on sales and a 53% higher return on equity than the rest.