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Gender Resources

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Author: Meghan Werft

Gender Bias. Child care. “Old Boys Clubs.” These are just some of the patriarchal roadblocks women face to entering the male-dominated field of politics. There are over 500,000 elected government positions in the US. For those to be equally represented between genders, experts estimate it could take anywhere between 100-500 years. 

Women hold 19.6% of elected seats in the US Congress, and 20% in the Senate according to a study from Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics. This number increases to 24% for state legislator positions but is still nowhere near gender parity.

Meanwhile, women are six times more likely than men to report being responsible for managing household chores, and a whopping 15 times more likely to report bearing the brunt of managing care for children, according to a study from Pew Research Center.

The City of New York University found that men were 15% more likely to be encouraged by their peers to run for government than women.

Beyond those entrenched stereotypes about gender roles, though, there are a number of complex and nuanced issues that act as barriers to gender parity in the political sphere.

Here is a deeper look at the barriers women in politics are up against today.

‘Who Me? Yes, You! If Not Then Who?’

The first barrier is simple and surprising: many women don’t even see politics as a career option. “There’s this disconnect in our thinking of what that job looks like…It’s a job like any other and I think we still haven’t cracked open the fact that this is a job for women,” Elyse Shaw, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told Global Citizen.

Shaw assisted on a study from IWPR called “Building Women’s Political Careers: Strengthening the Pipeline to Higher Office,”  where women were interviewed about their decisions to run for office. “I think more women are getting involved in politics. But one of the major findings, at least for me, out of this study was that a lot of women don’t see politics as a career,” Shaw said.

Shaw added that women often see politics as a hobby or side-job, and one that often needs a second income to support it. In addition to not seeing politics as a career, girls and women are seldom encouraged to run for office, according to Clare Bresnahan, Executive Director of She Should Run, an organization encouraging women to run for local and federal office positions.

“Even at earlier ages, in their college years, women have reported not being encouraged to run for office. Much like in the STEM fields,” Bresnahan told Global Citizen. “Women and girls don’t see themselves as reflected. When women run for office they win at the same rates. But they aren’t encouraged to run.”

In a recent study from American University, 22% of women surveyed said they felt qualified to run for office compared to 35% of men who were surveyed, Vox reports.

“It took 10 years volunteering to have the actual self-confidence to say, ‘I can run for office,’” New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told the New York Times. “Women are the biggest self-doubters.”

Male Incumbency

When women make it past the confidence barrier, there is still the challenge of defeating men who have held elected positions for decades. “Politics is one of those areas where the ‘old boys club’ still rules, so it’s hard [for women] to tap into it. You have the incumbency issues. It’s really hard when you have the same white men who’ve been around for a while,” Shaw said. “It’s hard for women, Democratic or Republican.”

And it doesn’t help that male members of Congress are twice as likely to run unopposed as female members. “Congress has historically been all male, and members of Congress get reelected at rates above 90 percent. That means you’re basically waiting for people to retire,” Michele Swers, a political scientist at Georgetown University told Vox.

“Politics is an ‘old boys’ club. That’s the bottom line,” said Brenda Carter, campaign director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, a group working to get women, especially women of color, into politics. “Women and people of color have been excluded from political power in a number of ways.”

Even at earlier ages, in their college years, women have reported not being encouraged to run for office. Much like in the STEM fields.

So what can help?

Quotas, affirmative measures that set fixed numbers or percentages for representation often of a minority group in politics, are one method to consider in order to help accelerate the slow growth rate of women entering politics due to male incumbency. Countries like Sweden have installed gender quotas. Next year in Sweden, 40% of candidates on ballots will be women, required by law. Bolivia installed gender parity quota in 2009 and now 53% of elected government officials are women.

While experts like Elyse Shaw believe this is less likely to happen in the US, she points instead to cities and states who employ a method called “rank choice voting,” where constituents can rank political candidates in order of preference. 

Rank choice voting can help get more women, especially women of color, on voter’s radars and give women a better chance at winning, according to Representation 2020, a group working for gender parity in politics. The group studied rank choice voting in San Francisco and found more women and candidate of color won.

Rank choice voting can lessen the impact of split votes, where third-party votes are essentially lost because multiple candidates from the same community can still be counted according to Representation 2020’s report. For women, this can be huge.

They say in the report that by including women in a ballot that uses rank choice, a woman may not be a voters’ first choice but more people are likely to include women as second or third choices, which can result in more women and candidates of color winning according to their report.

It will take structural changes in recruitment,  and electoral and legislative rules, like expanding inclusive measure such as rank choice voting, to reach equal gender representation in the US according to Representation 2020.

Family Protection and Gender Bias

“Women are held to harsher standards for things like appearance and family,” Bresnahan said. “It doesn’t hamper their ambition, but it is more of a factor in their decision to run.”

Shaw said that women are more likely to consider the effect their running for office has on their children.

“There were a lot of women in the study who said they didn’t want to run because they didn’t want their kids to be in the limelight,” Shaw said. 

In addition, social media has brought a new wave of gender – bias to politics for women according to Name It Changes It, a project from She Should Run and the Women’s Media Center, working to end gender – bias in politics. 

Politics is an ‘old boys’ club.’ That’s the bottom line.

More people reported seeing gender – bias in social media (27%) than other outlets such as televised news (16%) and broadcast (12%), Name It Change It reports.

Because women tend to consider the impact on their families and children more than male candidates, they often choose to run either earlier or later in life or have children after they are in office, according to Shaw.

Tapping Into Networks

Women also face challenges in fundraising, but not exactly in the way you might think. It’s not just about raising money, but instead in tapping into lasting networks of financial political support.

“Teaching women to ask when it comes to fundraising isn’t the hard part. The hard part is tapping into established networks of funders or new networks of funding,” Shaw said. “It’s a sponsorship issue.”

According to a report by Political Parity more women gain support from individual donors rather than established networks, like organizations and businesses, that donate to political candidates. The result of this is that donations are not as long-lasting and women have to work harder to raise the same amounts in the future, according to the report.

So getting established politicians to support women new to running for office is essential to getting more women into the field. Fortunately, there are groups and support networks that can help.

Set nonpartisan organizations to help women tap into funding networks, like the Women’s Campaign Fund, can provide a support network for the brave women who are both paving the path and considering running for office today.

“Women’s committees can be a big asset and helpful for supporting each other in an office. They can be good for bipartisan cooperation,” Shaw said.

Today, motivators like She Should Run, Emily’s List, Latina’s Represent, Name It Change It, the Barbara Lee Foundation, Representation 2020, and She Should Run’s Incubator program and campaign, Ask a Woman to Run, are just some of tools available for women toying with the idea of a political career.

“There are so many [more] organizations, resources, for women entering politics than in the past,” Bresnahan said.

The Silver Lining to Barriers

The good news is that most of these barriers can be broken with societal shifts and changes in the way we perceive both gender norms and politics.

Treating a government position like the actual career it is could encourage girls and women to consider politics as a career earlier in life, says Elyse Shaw. Challenging gender norms that women are responsible for childcare and family rearing, along with making child care more accessible, could also help. This, however, is more complicated than it seems.

“It’s hard because those are societal shifts that can be hard to address. But it’s also a catch-22 because having more women in office would help address those things [like child care.] It could normalize it,” Shaw said.

NOT long ago women faced tremendous barriers as they sought opportunities that would set them on an equal footing with men. Going back a mere quarter century, inequality between women and men was widely apparent—in university classrooms, in the workplace, and even in homes. Since then, the lives of women and girls around the world have improved dramatically in many respects. In most countries—rich and developing—they are going to school more, living longer, getting better jobs, and acquiring legal rights and protections.

But large gender gaps remain. Women and girls are more likely to die, relative to men and boys, in many low- and middle-income countries than their counterparts in rich countries. Women earn less and are less economically productive than men almost everywhere across the world. And women have less opportunity to shape their lives and make decisions than do men.

According to the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report; Gender Equality and Development, closing these gender gaps matters for development and policymaking. Greater gender equality can enhance economic productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions and policies more representative.

Many gender disparities remain even as countries develop, which calls for sustained and focused public action. Corrective policies will yield substantial development payoffs if they focus on persistent gender inequalities that matter most for welfare. To be effective, these measures must target the root causes of inequality without ignoring the domestic political economy.

Mixed progress

Every aspect of gender equality, access to education and health, economic opportunities, and voice within households and society, has experienced a mixed pattern of change over the past quarter-century. In some areas, such as education, the gender gap has closed for almost all women; but progress has been slower for those who are poor and face other disadvantages, such as ethnicity. In other areas, the gap has been slow to close, even among well-off women and in countries that have otherwise developed rapidly.

In primary education, the gender gap has closed in almost all countries, and it is shrinking quickly in secondary education. Indeed, in almost one-third of developing countries, girls now outnumber boys in secondary schools. There are more young women than men in universities in two-thirds of the countries for which there are data: women today represent 51 percent of the world’s university students. Yet more than 35 million girls do not attend school in developing countries, compared with 31 million boys, and two-thirds of these girls are members of ethnic minorities.

Since 1980, women have been living longer than men in all parts of the world. But across all developing countries, more women and girls still die at younger ages relative to men and boys, compared with rich countries. As a result of this “excess female mortality,” about 3.9 million girls and women under 60 are “missing” each year in developing countries. About two-fifths of them are never born, one-sixth die in early childhood and more than one-third die during their reproductive years. Female mortality is growing in sub-Saharan Africa, especially for women of childbearing age and in the countries hit hardest by the HIV/AIDS pandemic (World Bank, 2011, Chapter 3).

More than half a billion women have joined the world’s labor force over the past 30 years, and women now account for more than 40 percent of workers worldwide. One reason for increased workforce participation is an unprecedented reduction in fertility in developing countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, along with improvements in female education. Yet women everywhere tend to earn less than men (World Bank, 2011, especially Chapter 5). The reasons are varied. Women are more likely than men to work as unpaid family laborers or in the informal sector. Women farmers cultivate smaller plots and less profitable crops than male farmers. And women entrepreneurs operate smaller businesses in less lucrative sectors.

As for rights and voice, almost every country in the world has now ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Yet, in many countries, women (especially poor women) have less say than men when it comes to decisions and resources in their households. Women are also much more likely to suffer domestic violence—in developing and rich countries. And in all countries, rich and poor alike, fewer women participate in formal politics, especially at higher levels.

Gender equality and development

Gender equality is important in its own right. Development is a process of expanding freedoms equally for all people—male and female (Sen, 2009). Closing the gap in well-being between males and females is as much a part of development as is reducing income poverty. Greater gender equality also enhances economic efficiency and improves other development outcomes. It does so in three main ways:

  • First, with women now representing 40 percent of the global labor force and more than half the world’s university students, overall productivity will increase if their skills and talents are used more fully. For example, if women farmers have the same access as men to productive resources such as land and fertilizers, agricultural output in developing countries could increase by as much as 2.5 to 4 percent (FAO, 2011). Elimination of barriers against women working in certain sectors or occupations could increase output by raising women’s participation and labor productivity by as much as 25 percent in some countries through better allocation of their skills and talent (Cuberes and Teignier-Baqué, 2011).

 

  • Second, greater control over household resources by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, can enhance countries’ growth prospects by changing spending in ways that benefit children. Evidence from countries as varied as Brazil, China, India, South Africa, and the United Kingdom shows that when women control more household income—either through their own earnings or through cash transfers—children benefit as a result of more spending on food and education (World Bank, 2011).

 

  • Finally, empowering women as economic, political, and social actors can change policy choices and make institutions more representative of a range of voices. In India, giving power to women at the local level led to the greater provision of public goods, such as water and sanitation, which mattered more to women (Beaman and others, 2011).

The second part of the article can start here.

Gearing up development: How gender equality evolves as development proceeds can best be understood through the responses of households to the functioning and structure of markets and institutions—both formal (such as laws, regulations, and delivery of government services) and informal (such as gender roles, norms, and social networks).

This framework helps demonstrate why the gender gap in education enrollment has closed so quickly. In this case, income growth (by loosening budget constraints on households and the public treasury), markets (by opening new employment opportunities for women), and formal institutions (by expanding schools and lowering costs) have come together to influence household decisions in favor of educating girls and young women across a range of countries.

The framework also helps explain why poor women still face sizable gender gaps, especially those who experience not only poverty but also other forms of exclusion, such as living in a remote area, being a member of an ethnic minority, or suffering from a disability. In India and Pakistan, for instance, while there is no difference between the number of boys and girls enrolled in education for the richest fifth of the population, there is a gap of almost five years for the poorest fifth. The illiteracy rate among indigenous women in Guatemala is twice that among nonindigenous women and 20 percentage points higher than for indigenous men. Market signals, improved service delivery institutions, and higher incomes, which have generally favored the education of girls and young women, fail to reach these severely disadvantaged populations.

 

Policy implications: To bring about gender equality, policymakers need to focus their actions on five clear priorities: reducing the excess mortality of girls and women; eliminating remaining gender disadvantages in education; increasing women’s access to economic opportunity and thus earnings and productivity; giving women an equal voice in households and societies; and limiting the transmission of gender inequality across generations.

To reduce the excess mortality of girls and women, it is necessary to focus on the underlying causes at each age. Given girls’ higher susceptibility (relative to boys’) in infancy and early childhood to waterborne infectious diseases, improving water supply and sanitation, as Vietnam has done, is key to reducing excess female mortality in this age group (World Bank, 2011). Improving health care delivery to expectant mothers, as Sri Lanka did early in its development process and Turkey has done more recently, is critical. In the areas of sub-Saharan Africa most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, broader access to antiretroviral drugs and reducing the incidence of new infections must be the focus. To counter sex-selective abortions that lead to fewer female births, most notably in China and northern India, the societal value of girls must be enhanced, as Korea has done.

To shrink education gaps in countries where they persist, barriers to access because of poverty, ethnicity, or geography must come down. For example; where distance is the key problem (as in rural areas of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan), establishing more schools in remote areas can reduce the gender gap. When customized solutions are hard to implement or too costly, demand-side interventions, such as cash transfers conditioned on school attendance, can help get girls from poor families to school. Such conditional cash transfers have succeeded in increasing girls’ enrollment rates in countries as diverse as Mexico, Turkey, and Pakistan (World Bank, 2011).

To broaden women’s access to economic opportunity, thereby reducing male-female disparity in earnings and economic productivity, a combination of policies is called for. Solutions include freeing up women’s time so they can work outside the home—for example, through subsidized child care, as in Colombia; improving women’s access to credit, as in Bangladesh; and ensuring access to productive resources—especially land—as in Ethiopia, where joint land titles are now granted to wives and husbands. Addressing lack of information about women’s productivity in the workplace and eliminating institutional biases against women, for example by introducing quotas that favor women or job placement programs as in Jordan, will also open up economic opportunity to women.

To diminish gender differences in household and societal voice, policies need to address the combined influence of social norms and beliefs, women’s access to economic opportunities, the legal framework, and women’s education. Measures that increase women’s control over household resources and laws that enhance their ability to accumulate assets, especially by strengthening their property rights, are important. Morocco’s recent family law reforms strengthened women’s property rights by equalizing husbands’ and wives’ ownership rights over property acquired during the marriage. Ways to give women a greater voice in society include political representation quotas, training of future women leaders, and expanding women’s involvement in trade unions and professional associations.

To limit gender inequality over time, reaching adolescents and young adults iskey. Decisions made during this stage of life determine skills, health, economic opportunities, and aspirations in adulthood. To ensure that gender gaps do not persist over time, policies must emphasize building human and social capital (as in Malawi with cash transfers given directly to girls to either stay in or return to school); easing the transition from school to work (as with job and life skills training programs for young women in Uganda); and shifting aspirations (by exposing girls to such role models as women political leaders in India).

Domestic policy action is crucial, but the international community can complement efforts in each of these priority areas. This will require new or additional action on multiple fronts—some combination of more funding, coordinated efforts to foster innovation and learning, and more effective partnerships. Funding should be directed particularly to the poorest countries’ efforts to reduce excess deaths of girls and women (through investment in clean water and sanitation and maternal services) and to reduce persistent education gender gaps. Partnerships must also extend beyond those between governments and development agencies to include the private sector, civil society organizations, and academic institutions in developing and rich countries.

And while so much remains to be done, in many ways the world has already changed by finally recognizing that gender equality is good for both women and men. More and more, we are all realizing that there are many benefits—economic and others—that will result from closing gender gaps. A man from Hanoi, Vietnam, one of the thousands of people surveyed for the World Development Report, observed, “I think women nowadays increasingly enjoy more equality with men. They can do whatever job they like. They are very strong. In some families, the wife is the most powerful person. In general, men still dominate, but women’s situation has greatly improved. Equal cooperation between husband and wife is happiness. I think happiness is when equality exists between couples”

By: Ana Revenga and SudhirShetty

 

One common trait of successful people is that they don’t waste time. They Invest time rather than spending it. Throughout the World and all history, every Greatness, every Success story, every commanded respect, all begins, is sustained or crumbles by the art of personal time management. I believe Africa is greatly despised by the Globe due to our Lack of and poor time management skills. Anyone who can’t manage his time can’t manage his own life and easily become a slave to the ones who can make use of that time properly. I guess this sadly explains why most Africans work better under other races.

Following major world conferences and engagements, the strategy of keeping girls in school as the solution to ending the girl-child marriage in the world seems very apt.

Statistics show that each day, 41,000 girls marry before they reach the age of 18 (equivalent to 15 million girls every year).

Child marriage no doubt has a dangerous effect on the girl-child, her children, her family, and her society.

By: Faridah Mugimba Kakyama

African pension funds are starting to invest in infrastructure projects on their underdeveloped continent. The African Development Bank hopes the deepening pool of homegrown savings can fill the $45 billion hole it sees in annual infrastructure financing needed in Africa.

“It’s an unprecedented chance to make the investments in infrastructure and other sectors that the continent so desperately needs,” said David Ashiagbor, who runs a division of the bank devoted to developing financial markets in Africa. Until recently, most pension funds in Africa were hesitant to invest in infrastructures such as roads, railroads, and ports. Tying up cash in decade-long projects seemed unnecessarily risky while strong economic growth was driving up local stock markets.

Africa’s economy has recently grown by about 5% annually thanks to strong oil and mineral output as well as the rise of a nascent consumer class. The continent’s sovereign bonds were also generating strong returns because they are issued at a premium that reflects their riskiness relative to developed-market issuers like the U.S. That strategy is still working—almost too well. African pension funds that focus on stocks and bonds in their home markets have swelled. Namibia’s government pension fund manages assets worth 80% of the southern African country’s gross domestic product. Botswana’s local stock-and-bond holdings equal 40% of the diamond-rich nation’s GDP.

In Africa bonds and equities remain the two predominant asset classes for pension funds. While globally there is a larger allocation to equities (42.3%), the picture in Africa is more disparate. Broad asset allocation in sub-Saharan Africa has favoured equities that have shown a steady increase alongside the development of capital markets and regulatory change.

In Nigeria and East Africa, asset allocation is dominated by fixed income allocations, which predominantly constitute local bonds. When viewed alongside the high asset-growth in these regions, this is illustrative of regulation as well as local investment opportunities. This typifies one of the larger challenges pension funds face; identifying appropriate local investment and development opportunities at the same pace as asset growth.

RisCura analysis Local regulation remains one of the main drivers of asset allocation. While much of African regulation is supportive of local investment, there are often significant differences between the regulatory allowances for pension funds, the size of local capital markets and actual portfolio allocations.

Pension Focus November Magazine 2016 explains significant differences between the regulatory allowances for pension funds, the size of local capital markets and actual portfolio allocations. This is reflective of a number of factors, including familiarity with alternative asset classes, such as private equity, development of local capital markets and availability of investment opportunities. In many countries, assets are growing much faster than products are being brought to market, limiting investment opportunities if regulation does not allow for pension funds to invest outside of their own countries.

As pension assets continue to grow and international development assistance decreases, African pension funds have a pivotal role to play in facilitating inclusive growth and social stability. Larger pools of capital allow for investment in economic and capital market development locally and on the continent. Africa would benefit from local investment in longer term projects, including infrastructure. Local institutional investors lend credibility and a measure of validation and often serve as a catalyst for greater external interest. Local investors also allow global peers to leverage local knowledge and networks. With longer investment horizons, pension funds can serve as anchor investors for infrastructure and social development projects.

While investment in private equity in emerging markets has historically come from DFIs, pension funds are slowly joining in. A number of countries including South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, and Namibia have led the way of alternative asset classes such as private equity. South African pension funds, for example, have been active in African private equity investment, both locally and across the continent, enabled by regulatory change. Since 2011, Regulation 28, which is the governing law for pension funds in South Africa allows up to 10% of pension assets to be invested in private equity, an increase from the previous 2.5% allowance for all ’other’ asset classes. Nigeria first introduced broad pension reforms in 2004 when the National Pension Commission (PenCom) was established and laws were passed introducing mandatory contribution schemes for all unfunded public and private sector employees initiating the change from DB to DC schemes. Regulation in 2010 set the limit for private equity at a prudent 5% and also imposed certain minimum requirements for such investment including a minimum ten years’ experience for investment professionals, a minimum 75% exposure to domestic Nigerian assets and required general partner (GP) investment. Draft regulation released for comment in early 2015 proposes to further relax these limits. While this enables investment, the requirements are quite prescriptive and have hampered practical implementation.

Nigeria is due to pass further legislation that will make provision for additional permissible investment instruments. This is expected to support the development of local capital markets and increase allocations to equity markets. Regulation can also enable regional and international diversification. Namibia, for example, allows up to 35% of assets outside the Common Monetary Area (Lesotho, South Africa, Namibia, and Swaziland), however with a limit of 30% outside Africa, while Botswana allows up to 70% investment abroad. This allows pension funds the freedom to find suitable investment opportunities without being constrained by the current limitations of local market development. This is in contrast with East African countries such as Uganda and Tanzania where offshore investment is not allowed, although in the case of Tanzania it is unclear whether the restriction applies to a country or regional level (East African Community).

African Labour trends determine Life savings

While Africa proves no exception to trends of universally ageing populations, the continent still has a young population compared to the rest of the world. Uganda, for example, has a median age of 15 years, and also the youngest population in the world, with Uganda at the lower end, to 40 years of age or more in several European countries and Japan (CIA, 2013). There are a number of factors driving this demographic trend, amongst them higher than average population growth on the continent and an increase in life expectancy. Over time, a combination of these factors is expected to increase not only the percentage of the labour market population in Africa but also the number of years spent in retirement, creating greater demand for increased coverage and adequate pension provision. The combination of increased life expectancy and working age population is likely to lend strong support to growth in pension fund assets on the continent. Working age population in Africa will increase, as will the number of years spent in retirement.

Working age population in Africa will increase, as will the number of years spent in retirement

By: Sydney Lazarus

 

Procurement functions can play a big role in supporting women-owned businesses, argues a new report produced by UN Women. The report points out that corporations are in a powerful position to help close the gender gap through their procurement and sourcing departments. Even though corporate spend accounts for trillions of dollars every year, only 1% of that sum goes to women-owned businesses. (In comparison, for U.S. federal contracts, the figure is 4.7%)

 

The benefits of sourcing from more women-owned businesses go beyond the women themselves. The World Economic Forum has found that gender equality is positively correlated with the country’s gross domestic product and level of competitiveness. Similarly, the World Bank has reported that “underused or misallocated” female labor leads to economic losses.

 

But what do corporations themselves stand to gain? First, and perhaps most important to the c-suite, there are benefits to the bottom line. The report cites the case of AT&T, which “attributed about $4 billion of revenue to the engagement of women suppliers in 2014.” Studies done by the Hackett Group and Cargill have found companies that emphasize supplier diversity programs generate a greater return on investment.

 

While in recent years companies have tended to prefer large suppliers that would allow them to streamline supply chain operations, this also makes risk more concentrated. A larger and more diversified supplier base allows companies to spread their risk and minimize chances of supply disruption, as well as promote more competition among suppliers. Of course, companies also stand to improve their reputations when they source from women-owned businesses.

 

There are a number of reasons why women-owned businesses tend to be left out of corporate supply chains, despite the fact that as of 2013, women own more than a third of companies worldwide. The report explains that, compared with men, female business owners tend to have less financial capital and less managerial experience.

 

Cultural factors also come into play, with women in many, if not most, countries expected to take charge of childcare and housework, leaving less time for developing and growing their businesses.

 

Becoming a corporate supplier can have a huge effect on a small business’s revenue, growth, and survival. The UN Women report has a number of recommendations for corporations interested in sourcing more from women-owned businesses:

  • Simplify the supplier application process. A number of companies take part in Supplier Connection, a standardized application that allows suppliers to apply to multiple companies in one go.
  • Limit bundled contracts. Not only does this decrease the risk of supply disruptions, limiting the size of contracts also allows newer, smaller businesses to enter the corporate supply chain.
  • Provide post-award feedback. Information on why a tender was not selected can help a business bid more successfully in the future.
  • When deciding among bidders, opt for best value over lowest price. The former approach also considers factors such as quality, cost effectiveness, and after-sales service.

 

By: Monica Burdick

Those of us with careers in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM fields, in today’s common parlance) know the importance of truths revealed by numbers. How can it be, then, that so many people in our numbers-based fields are inured to the deep disappointment I feel regarding statistics on gender disparities in STEM-related jobs?

According to 2016 figures from the National Science Board, women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce and only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce. Though female and male students show no significant differences in their math and science abilities between kindergarten and senior year of high school, somehow only 35 percent of chemists, 17 percent of industrial engineers, 11 percent of physicists and astronomers, and 8 percent of mechanical engineers are women.

These imbalances ought to provoke outrage in their own right—or, at the very least, an investigation into their causes. But the byproducts of the under-representation of women across STEM fields are just as troubling because they shape the very questions and technological priorities that drive these fields.

That is to say: Might it be a related problem that researchers often neglect to account for gender differences in their medical research (likely negatively impacting women) or that efforts to develop better contraception options have been woefully weak in recent decades?

The gender imbalance in STEM fields goes beyond women in these industries: It’s bad for women across our society. And if it’s bad for women, then it’s bad for society as a whole. If we can agree on that, surely we can agree that we must try to do something to fix the problem. Here is what I believe we can start doing today:

Women must be encouraged to ask questions. From “Are there any internship positions available with you?” to proposing research hypotheses, we need to hear from women more broadly across these fields, which means we need to make sure that they have the confidence to pursue their curiosities—and to see their inquisitiveness and pursuits as valid.

Women and the people around them in the workplace need to actively separate their gender from their role. The problem of inequality affects all of us, and we can only correct for it if we all work together to own the problem. In my labs and meetings, I do my best to eradicate all gender roles, both for women and for men. I do not want women to be the default “maintainers” of the labs, and I don’t want to see men as the only thought leaders in meetings. We will just be creating tension that distracts from our work unless we all acknowledge that there are no gender-specific roles in these settings.

We must acknowledge the persistence of stereotypes and unconsciously biased actions in order to overcome them. As an Asian-American woman, I face hindering stereotypes when I fulfill my duties as a leader in the lab. I have to actively remind myself that it’s OK to be outspoken and firm, even though it’s not what a stereotype would dictate of me. An accounting by women and anyone who works with women about what our perceived stereotypes misguidedly push us to do and say is a good first step in escaping their grasp. If an individual is not confident enough to stand up to domineering co-workers and express her thoughts, I encourage her to find a mentor to help her represent herself—and to see this as a learning opportunity. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but with guidance and practice, a person can develop the ability to express ideas freely.

I began my career with naive resignation to the lack of consideration given to the gender gap in STEM fields. As the years have worn on, that youthful foolishness has given way to shock that hasn’t had reason to dissipate. It’s good to see more discussion about some of these issues, but the talk doesn’t mean much until we see a culture shift and real steps taken at all levels, especially by senior figures within corporations and institutions. As a female professor of engineering, I believe that we must listen to understand how women are being discouraged and harmed by this problem, and then we must act.