The recent Clinton Global Initiative Plenary Session on Women addressed
several issues regarding the welfare of women and emphasized the need to invest
more heavily in female empowerment. Former US President, Bill Clinton, noted
that "women perform 66 percent of the world's work, and produce 50 percent of
the food, yet earn only 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the
property.' Moreover, he referenced reports that show that 'when women and girls
are empowered, entire regions see measurable results' since women are likely to
reinvest approximately 90% of their earnings into the welfare of their
families, as compared to a figure of 35% for men. Women are already
contributing immensely to global growth and could do even more; however, on the
whole, they do not reap their fair share of the benefits of hard work, and
there is still a lot more to be done in terms of providing the necessary
opportunities so that they can further develop and have a wider positive effect
on global society.
One particular arena in which this is true is that of business schools.
Although female enrollment in law and medical schools has risen over the years,
enrollment in business schools has remained quite steady (see articles from the
Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine). Executive Director of the
Forté Foundation, Ms. Elissa Ellis-Sangster believes that this is owing partly
to the idea that it is not as clear what one does with a business degree as
opposed to a law or medical one. Still, business management is an essential
element in the performance of any business and those who have these skills can
effect a lot of positive change in the world. The foundation also finds
work-life balance and the lack of encouragement from employers to pursue an MBA
as major challenges that women face. How can these challenges be met? Are there
other factors to consider; and how might the situation look the same or
different between established and emerging markets?
With the knowledge of the potential that women have to create a lasting and
positive impact in our world, can we afford not to create the ideal
environments to allow them to thrive and be empowered? This brings to mind the
famous proverb that reads 'If you educate a man you educate an individual,
but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)'. Not everyone
might agree with this statement; however, it does throw emphasis on the dire
need to empower many women who are at comparably disadvantaged positions to men
in many respects (don't believe me? Check out the Girl Effect). How, then, do we bridge the gap?
Vako Tamaklo is the Business Development Officer
Nyaho Medical Centre and serves as the co-chair of The West Indian and African Association at Hamilton College.