Invest in Women

Every year on 8 March, we celebrate International Women’s Day. It’s the one day of the year when women are formally recognised for the huge (often unpaid) contribution we make to our homes, our families, our communities: indeed all the communities and organisations of which we are a part.  

It’s also one day when we highlight the plight of so many women world wide and campaign for women’s empowerment and gender equality.  Once again raise our voices to end violence against women, eliminate the poverty that disproportionately affects women and girls. The UN estimates that some $360 billion a year is needed to achieve gender equality.

So where did International Women’s Day come from? And how effective is it, not simply at raising issues that impact women and girls, but also in making progress?

The first National Women’s Day was celebrated in the USA in 1908, in solidarity with women factory workers who were striking over working conditions.  During the early part of the 20th century, women’s days were celebrated on various different dates across Europe. After World War II, International Women’s Day celebrations began to be held on 8th March.

It wasn’t until 1975, that the United Nations began celebrating the day, and in 1977 adopted 8th March as an International United Nations Day.

This year’s theme centres on investing in women for the simple reason that doing so ensures that we, as a society flourish.   It’s estimated that by closing the gender pay gap, we’d enjoy a 20% increase in GDP per capita, significant by anyone’s standards. 

Much ‘women’s work’ is unpaid. What would the true cost to our economies be if women were paid a decent wage for all the domestic duties, the care giving, child care and education that we contribute to society? Women spend about three times more time on unpaid care work than men, and if this were given a monetary value it would contribute more than 40% to GDP.

It seems to me that we need to think differently about the economy, as Riane Eisler proposed in her excellent book “The Real Wealth of Nations, Creating a Caring Economy”. Instead of focusing on only the public sector, private sector and the black market, we take into account three other key sectors critical to our economy and wellbeing that are systematically ignored. The domestic, charitable and the environment sectors. The first two are largely unpaid, or poorly paid ‘women’s work’. The latter sector is mined and exploited for its riches, polluted and depleted without paying the price either for the resources or the environmental damage caused.

What if we were to #investinwomen fully, even if it takes $360 billion a year world wide? We’d release so much untapped potential, grow our economies and bring more caring and dare I say a lot more sanity to our world.  It can’t help but be a good thing.

What are your thoughts?

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