Investing in Women

By: Noa Gafni
Fello of Social Innovation at the University of Cambridge
Written on 03/05/2014 

With International Women’s Day only a few days away, it’s important to assess where we stand in terms of gender equality. How are women and girls faring globally? The statistics are striking; whilst the issues themselves vary from the least developed to most developed countries, it is clear that we are under-investing in women across the board.

Health In the developing world: 70 percent of the world’s poorest individuals are women and girls. Girls are three times more likely to be malnourished than boys. More than 280,000 women die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth each year.

Education: Almost two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population are women. 72 million girls of primary and secondary school age are not currently in school. In developed countries, women hold less than 20 percent of computer science degrees.

Economic Empowerment In the United States: Only 14 percent of women hold executive officer positions. Women earn only $0.77 for every dollar that men make. Women owned ventures are less likely to receive funding, with only 7 percent of venture capital and 24 percent of angel funding going to women-led businesses.

These issues are interconnected. Girls who attend school are more likely to marry later, have fewer children, and lead economically productive lives. Each year of a mother’s schooling reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5-10 percent. With every 1 percent increase in women’s enrollment in secondary school, a country’s GDP grows by 0.3 percent.

The same is true for the developed world: Girls who take calculus in high school are 3x more likely to major in science or engineering. Women in the ICT industry earn 9 percent more than those in other parts of the economy. Venture capital firms who invest in women-led businesses outperform those that do not.

On this International Women’s Day, let us invest more in the health, education, and economic empowerment of women worldwide. Let us support organizations such as She’s the First, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, Girls Who Code, andAstia. Let us capitalize on the healthier, better educated, and more economically stable world that investing in women could provide.