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Gender Equality and Women in the Workforce Mini-Series: Blog 3

By Justin Reesor | Sat Jan 27 2018
In the first blog of this mini-series, we clearly defined the relevant definitions related to gender; gender equality, gender equity, women empowerment. We also looked at the numbers around how women are under-represented globally in mid-level and senior positions in the workforce. We found that companies who prioritize equal representation in management level positions actually outperform those who do not. In the second blog, Laura Davis shared her own experience and advice being a woman in a male-dominated space, and reiterated the importance of allowing women to use their natural and unique gifts to grow companies and be involved in the strategic decision-making process.
To fully appreciate the emphasis being put on gender equality worldwide, and the importance that this represents in alleviating poverty, we can take a step back, and look at the top priorities from major development agencies and organizations worldwide:
  • When the UN released its updated set of Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015 (the ‘SDGs’), it listed gender equality as number 5 on its list of 17, ahead of clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, and reduced inequalities between countries, to name a few. The resounding sentiment is that until women and men receive equal access to resources and opportunities, working towards the other goals on the SDG list will remain futile. (source)
Key quote: Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will require more vigorous efforts, including legal frameworks, to counter deeply rooted gender-based discrimination that often results from patriarchal attitudes and related social norms.
  • Global Affairs Canada released its own list of action areas for international development within its ‘Feminist International Assistance’ policy with, you guessed it, ‘gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls’ sitting atop a list which also includes human dignity, industry growth and renewable energy, environment and climate action, inclusive governance, and peace and security. (source)
Key Quote: Empowerment is about people — both women and men — taking control over their lives: setting their own agendas, gaining skills, building self-confidence, solving problems, and developing self-reliance. It is not only a collective, social and political process, but an individual one as well — and it is not only a process but an outcome too.
  • USAID lists 11 priority sectors in its fight “to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential”, with ‘gender equality and women’s empowerment’ making the list along with education, health, food security, and economic growth. (source)
Key Quote: Progress cannot be made if half a country’s talents are never developed or utilized. For societies to thrive, women and girls must have access to education, healthcare and technology. They must have control of resources, land and markets. And they must have equal rights and equal opportunities. Closing these gaps can unlock human potential on a transformational scale.
The theme with all of these agencies’ official statements is simple and consistent; gender equality is so interwoven into all issues related to poverty alleviation that focusing on gender equality is as, or more critical, than providing some of human’s most basic physiological needs, including access to clean drinking water, ending wars, creating jobs for the unemployed and having access to an income, and all other measures you think of when it comes to reducing poverty.
At RENEW, we can appreciate this mindset, as sustainability of social impact outcomes is our main driving force. We believe in fostering social impact in emerging markets in Africa by creating sustainable economic growth through investment in the private sector. We are uninterested in short term initiatives which have all the right intentions, but inevitably fizzle out soon after the project wraps up. Instead, we believe in aligning incentives that result in long term job creation: private capital grows businesses, spurs employment, creates market leaders and remains impactful long after the exit of the investment. In the same way, creating a world that inherently provides equal opportunity for men and women, a societal foundation that is equitable and sustainable, allows for critical progress towards poverty alleviation to be realized.
This is not to say that any of this is easy, and working towards equality does not bear fruit overnight. We also recognize that through our work in Africa, we must continue to make a concerted effort to go beyond traditional venues and communication channels to make women aware of and benefit from our training programs, and create a system and culture which provides women entrepreneurs with an equal opportunity to pitch their companies to our leadership team and investor network. We will keep moving forward with this agenda, and we will be a small part of the engine driving towards equality, equity and empowerment.

Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.

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