.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the United Nations has issued a call for the business world to commit to an agenda of women’s empowerment in the hopes of achieving gender equality, not just because it’s the right thing to do – it is the right thing to do – but because doing so will add trillions of dollars to the global economy and help lift dozens of developing nations out of poverty. A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute showed that with gender parity, women could add as much as $28 trillion to 2025’s annual GDP. In Malawi for example, one of the world’s poorest countries, closing the gender gap in just the agriculture sector would add $100 million to the national economy and lift close to a quarter of a million people out of poverty, according to a recent World Bank study. Closing the gender gap and reaping these transformative benefits requires real innovation. It requires changes in the way we govern, use technology and do business. And with women in the developed world becoming increasingly active contributors to economic development, the world is poised – now more than ever before – to utilize innovation to better women’s lives across the globe. So, what is the intersection between innovation and the empowerment of women? Innovations such as modern contraceptives, improvements in childcare provision, and quotas to ensure parity in educational institutions and representative bodies, have improved women’s incomes, health, wellbeing and opportunities. Innovation isn’t just about a creative idea though. It’s about being able to bring that idea to market. Innovation is the implementation of creativity, and this implementation requires certain preconditions in order to occur fluidly. The most challenging barriers inhibiting women from reaching their “innovation potential” are free time, access to education and access to finance – three factors that are all too often lacking for women in the developing world. Innovations can significantly reduce women’s “time poverty,” and allow them more time to attend school, be with their families, and tend to their businesses. A study by Practical Action determined that on average, women in India spend about 374 hours every year collecting firewood, and that improved cooking stoves could save women over 70 hours annually. Innovations like the Wonderbag, a padded container that allows off the fire cooking, allow women freedom from tending stoves. Businesswoman Sarah Collins created the Wonderbag with the mission to empower women in Africa, and for every Wonderbag sold online distributes another for free to an impoverished woman in the developing world. Water collection is another huge contributor to time poverty in the developing world. In some countries, women spend as much as 85 percent of their daily energy intake fetching water, sometimes walking as far as 10-15 kilometers to and from water sources. The Wello WaterWheel, a 45 liter rolling drum that moves 2-5 times as much water as traditional methods, was created by female entrepreneur Cynthia Koenig to help reduce the time women spend collecting water. In parts of rural India the use of the Wello WaterWheel has reduced the amount of time women spend collecting water by more than 30 hours per week, time that can now be used in their fields, for their businesses, or on their studies. Increased girls' school attendance is a critical result of alleviating burdens of wood and water collection, and girls' access to education is essential for women to reach their full potential. Educated girls perform better in the marketplace, are quicker to adopt new technologies, and make smarter choices about family planning. They enrich their families, their communities and ultimately their nations. At present though, over 62 million girls around the world are not attending school, oftentimes because of lack of finances or pressure from other obligations, but sometimes because shame caused by lack of facilities to deal with menstruation leads to high absenteeism and often failure. Uganda-based AFRIpads, a company founded by Sophia Klumpp, has an innovative solution that fulfills two goals. Her company provides low-cost reusable sanitary pads to schoolgirls and creates job opportunities for women by hiring local women to sew the pads. Items like the AFRIpad have been transformative in allowing girls – who previously stayed home and missed as much as 20 percent of schooldays due to their periods – to attend school and not fall behind their male peers. Similar basic innovations like girls’ hostels on school properties, and separate girls’ latrines with changing areas have allowed girls in developing countries to stay in school. Access to finance and the formal economy is the third key to unlocking women’s economic potential. Social ventures like mobile banking save women time and money, and allow them access to new markets and economic opportunities. Through mobile banking, poor – and even illiterate – women can access banking services that help them manage their income, facilitate financial transactions, access credit and loans, and allow them to invest and accrue savings, all without having to spend time or transport expenses in transit to banks. Other financial innovations, such as the government-owned Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) offer an innovative solution to increasing the number of women engaged in India’s formal economy. BMB, opened in 2013, is the only bank in India exclusively for women. BMB not only offers traditional savings and loan programs, it runs seminars to increase women’s financial literacy (often run by women from the local communities) and works with NGOs to train women in vocational skills. Innovations like the Wonderbag, the WaterWheel, AFRIpads, and BMB - by women for women - embody the idea of #LiftAsYouClimb, successful women using their power of innovation to better the lives of other women. By improving their social status, increasing their confidence, and allowing them to explore creativity and problem-solving, innovations can give women the capacity to help pull forward other women working their way up behind them. Breaking down barriers to women’s creative capacities is the first step in their emergence in the field of innovation. Once allowed the time, education, and finances to innovate, the opportunities exist to actively encourage other women’s empowerment, by driving transformative social change through macro-level policies in government and society. Innovation is cyclical. The more women innovate, the more they inspire and allow other women to innovate. Cultivating innovation to empower women and encourage gender equality allows leaders, businesses, governments, and women themselves to create new solutions to difficult problems. So this Women’s Day, I encourage all of my fellow female businesswomen, leaders, artists, innovators and politicians to lift as you climb. Let’s innovate for the future of women. Let’s innovate for the future of our world.   About the author: Fumbi Chima is the Chief Information Officer of Burberry. She is also an Advisory Board Member of Diplomatic Courier and a Board Member of the World Affairs Council in Washington, DC.

About
Fumbi Chima
:
Fumbi Chima is the Chief Information Officer of Adidas and a Member of the Advisory Board of Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

Women and Innovation: How Creativity Empowers Women

formula for business success: good ideas and skilled ceo girl version
March 7, 2016

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the United Nations has issued a call for the business world to commit to an agenda of women’s empowerment in the hopes of achieving gender equality, not just because it’s the right thing to do – it is the right thing to do – but because doing so will add trillions of dollars to the global economy and help lift dozens of developing nations out of poverty. A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute showed that with gender parity, women could add as much as $28 trillion to 2025’s annual GDP. In Malawi for example, one of the world’s poorest countries, closing the gender gap in just the agriculture sector would add $100 million to the national economy and lift close to a quarter of a million people out of poverty, according to a recent World Bank study. Closing the gender gap and reaping these transformative benefits requires real innovation. It requires changes in the way we govern, use technology and do business. And with women in the developed world becoming increasingly active contributors to economic development, the world is poised – now more than ever before – to utilize innovation to better women’s lives across the globe. So, what is the intersection between innovation and the empowerment of women? Innovations such as modern contraceptives, improvements in childcare provision, and quotas to ensure parity in educational institutions and representative bodies, have improved women’s incomes, health, wellbeing and opportunities. Innovation isn’t just about a creative idea though. It’s about being able to bring that idea to market. Innovation is the implementation of creativity, and this implementation requires certain preconditions in order to occur fluidly. The most challenging barriers inhibiting women from reaching their “innovation potential” are free time, access to education and access to finance – three factors that are all too often lacking for women in the developing world. Innovations can significantly reduce women’s “time poverty,” and allow them more time to attend school, be with their families, and tend to their businesses. A study by Practical Action determined that on average, women in India spend about 374 hours every year collecting firewood, and that improved cooking stoves could save women over 70 hours annually. Innovations like the Wonderbag, a padded container that allows off the fire cooking, allow women freedom from tending stoves. Businesswoman Sarah Collins created the Wonderbag with the mission to empower women in Africa, and for every Wonderbag sold online distributes another for free to an impoverished woman in the developing world. Water collection is another huge contributor to time poverty in the developing world. In some countries, women spend as much as 85 percent of their daily energy intake fetching water, sometimes walking as far as 10-15 kilometers to and from water sources. The Wello WaterWheel, a 45 liter rolling drum that moves 2-5 times as much water as traditional methods, was created by female entrepreneur Cynthia Koenig to help reduce the time women spend collecting water. In parts of rural India the use of the Wello WaterWheel has reduced the amount of time women spend collecting water by more than 30 hours per week, time that can now be used in their fields, for their businesses, or on their studies. Increased girls' school attendance is a critical result of alleviating burdens of wood and water collection, and girls' access to education is essential for women to reach their full potential. Educated girls perform better in the marketplace, are quicker to adopt new technologies, and make smarter choices about family planning. They enrich their families, their communities and ultimately their nations. At present though, over 62 million girls around the world are not attending school, oftentimes because of lack of finances or pressure from other obligations, but sometimes because shame caused by lack of facilities to deal with menstruation leads to high absenteeism and often failure. Uganda-based AFRIpads, a company founded by Sophia Klumpp, has an innovative solution that fulfills two goals. Her company provides low-cost reusable sanitary pads to schoolgirls and creates job opportunities for women by hiring local women to sew the pads. Items like the AFRIpad have been transformative in allowing girls – who previously stayed home and missed as much as 20 percent of schooldays due to their periods – to attend school and not fall behind their male peers. Similar basic innovations like girls’ hostels on school properties, and separate girls’ latrines with changing areas have allowed girls in developing countries to stay in school. Access to finance and the formal economy is the third key to unlocking women’s economic potential. Social ventures like mobile banking save women time and money, and allow them access to new markets and economic opportunities. Through mobile banking, poor – and even illiterate – women can access banking services that help them manage their income, facilitate financial transactions, access credit and loans, and allow them to invest and accrue savings, all without having to spend time or transport expenses in transit to banks. Other financial innovations, such as the government-owned Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) offer an innovative solution to increasing the number of women engaged in India’s formal economy. BMB, opened in 2013, is the only bank in India exclusively for women. BMB not only offers traditional savings and loan programs, it runs seminars to increase women’s financial literacy (often run by women from the local communities) and works with NGOs to train women in vocational skills. Innovations like the Wonderbag, the WaterWheel, AFRIpads, and BMB - by women for women - embody the idea of #LiftAsYouClimb, successful women using their power of innovation to better the lives of other women. By improving their social status, increasing their confidence, and allowing them to explore creativity and problem-solving, innovations can give women the capacity to help pull forward other women working their way up behind them. Breaking down barriers to women’s creative capacities is the first step in their emergence in the field of innovation. Once allowed the time, education, and finances to innovate, the opportunities exist to actively encourage other women’s empowerment, by driving transformative social change through macro-level policies in government and society. Innovation is cyclical. The more women innovate, the more they inspire and allow other women to innovate. Cultivating innovation to empower women and encourage gender equality allows leaders, businesses, governments, and women themselves to create new solutions to difficult problems. So this Women’s Day, I encourage all of my fellow female businesswomen, leaders, artists, innovators and politicians to lift as you climb. Let’s innovate for the future of women. Let’s innovate for the future of our world.   About the author: Fumbi Chima is the Chief Information Officer of Burberry. She is also an Advisory Board Member of Diplomatic Courier and a Board Member of the World Affairs Council in Washington, DC.

About
Fumbi Chima
:
Fumbi Chima is the Chief Information Officer of Adidas and a Member of the Advisory Board of Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.