Investing in Women: A Bold Step Towards Universal Equality


In the story of our collective history, one vital aspect often gets sidelined: the role of women in bringing prosperity. It’s essential for the world to recognize that women’s contributions are crucial and form the foundation for our future success.

Elevating Women, Elevating Society

Antonio Guterres, the head of the United Nations, has stressed this, highlighting that if we truly want to remove the obstacles holding women back, we need to back up our words with action—and that means investing in women. His statement is based on a simple fact proven time and again: when women thrive, we all thrive. 

Women Empowerment
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So, as we celebrate Women’s Day and its theme of “Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress,” let’s delve into why this investment isn’t just a gesture; it’s the key to unlocking a brighter, more equitable future for humanity in its wholesomeness.

Despite some progress, women all over the globe still face huge challenges. Think marginalization, unfair treatment, discrimination, and even violence. It’s clear we can’t just sit back and hope things get better on their own.

Here’s a sobering thought: if we keep going at our current pace, it’ll take us about 300 years to achieve legal equality between men and women. That’s way too long to wait. We need to step up and take concrete actions to make sure women get the fair treatment and opportunities they deserve.

Current Trends and Challenges: A Global Perspective

Despite efforts on a global scale, women’s financial inclusion hasn’t seen significant improvement over the past decade. In fact, women still face more challenges and are more vulnerable financially compared to men, and events like the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to undo any progress that has been made.

Investing in women
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Did you know that globally, women do three times more unpaid care work than men? It’s a staggering amount of effort that often goes unnoticed because it’s not factored into things like the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). What’s even more alarming is that on average, women in the workforce earn 20% less than men. In some countries, this gap widens to a whopping 35%.

A big part of the problem is old-fashioned ideas and cultural norms that hold them back from being financially independent. Shockingly, businesses owned by women globally suffer from a significant lack of funding amounting to a staggering USD 1.7 trillion. And it’s not just in business—when it comes to owning land for farming, women often get the short end of the stick. In fact, in 87% of countries where we have data, women struggle to get secure rights to agricultural land.

On top of that, a substantial portion of women’s employment worldwide happens in the informal economy, especially in low-income countries, where more than 90% of women are in jobs that aren’t officially recognized. And even when women do find work, they’re still getting a raw deal, earning only 80 cents for every dollar that men make, on average.

Ever heard of the glass ceiling? It’s a metaphorical barrier that prevents women from reaching top positions in companies, despite their abilities. Surprisingly, companies with female CEOs tend to perform better financially, with a 1.0% higher Return on Assets (ROA) compared to those led by men. However, as of 2022, only 6% of CEOs worldwide are women. Clearly, there’s still a significant gender disparity in leadership roles.

This trend extends beyond the corporate world. Women-owned hedge funds have consistently outperformed the average hedge fund by 10.5% over the last 16 years. Similarly, startups founded by women tend to generate twice as much revenue per dollar invested compared to those founded by men.

Despite these promising statistics, the reality remains stark: if current trends persist, over 340 million women and girls will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030. Addressing gender equality under the Sustainable Development Goals requires an additional $360 billion per year in investment for developing countries. It’s time to take meaningful action to level the playing field and create a more equitable world for all.

In developing countries, while progress has been made in narrowing the gap between the number of unbanked men and women, with the divide shrinking from 9 to 6 percentage points in 2021, women still make up 55% of the global unbanked population.

Let us take the example of a country like India which is on the brink of making it into the list of developed countries and shows both progress and challenges. On one hand, there has been a significant increase in women’s financial inclusion, with 75.4% of adult women having accounts with financial institutions in 2021, a rise of 38.3% since 2014. 

Bridging the Gap
Image Courtesy: Global Findex Database / Bank Account Ownership, South Asia (2021)

However, less than half of working-age women are in the labor market globally, a figure that hasn’t changed much in the past 25 years. While the National Family Health Survey 2019–21(NFHS-5) of India indicates an increase in women’s access to bank accounts, challenges persist in credit accessibility and digital literacy. 

Challenges Faced by Women Entrepreneurs 

Running a business as a woman can be tough, especially when it comes to getting the money you need. It’s not just about the money, though. Women entrepreneurs around the world encounter lots of hurdles that can make it tough to succeed.

1. Getting Money: It’s often really hard for women entrepreneurs to get the funding they need for their businesses. Even though closing the gap in credit for women-owned businesses could boost incomes, women still don’t get as much venture capital funding as men. This happens because of unfair laws, biased lending practices, and the idea in society that women shouldn’t be running businesses.

2. Social Pressure: Women who start businesses often have to push against social expectations. In many societies, there’s this idea that women should stay at home, so when they try to start a business, some people don’t take them seriously. It can also take them longer to gain respect in their industries compared to men.

3. Not Enough Support: Finding mentors and advisors can be tough for women entrepreneurs. Nearly half of them say they don’t have enough guidance to help them grow their businesses. Since men are usually the big players in business, it’s hard for women to find someone who understands what they’re going through.

4. Limited Connections: Women often don’t have the same access to business networks as men do. These networks can help them find customers, partners, and suppliers, but women often miss out on these opportunities.

5. Juggling Work and Family: Balancing running a business with family life can be really tricky for women entrepreneurs. In most cultures around the world, women are expected to take care of the household and kids, which can make it hard to focus on their businesses.

6. Facing Bias: Sadly, women entrepreneurs often have to deal with unfair treatment because of their gender. This can mean not being taken seriously or having to meet higher standards than men.

These challenges are tough, but they can be overcome. With the right support, changes in policies, and shifts in society’s attitudes, women entrepreneurs can conquer these obstacles and thrive in their businesses.

Empowering Women: The Engine of Global Prosperity

Investing in women doesn’t just benefit the individuals themselves; it has far-reaching positive effects on society as a whole. Here’s why:

Women's Role in Leadership
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Firstly, empowering women economically plays a crucial role in reducing instances of gender-based violence. When women have the means to support themselves, they’re less likely to find themselves in situations where they’re vulnerable to abuse.

Additionally, when disasters strike, financially empowered women are better equipped to navigate through challenges and aid in the recovery process for their families and communities.

However, the benefits of investing in women’s economic empowerment have been shown to yield significant benefits for both communities and global prosperity. Here are some real-life examples:

Nicole from Seychelles: Nicole Chang Leng made history in Seychelles as the first woman flight captain. She flew planes for the national airline with pride. She led all-female crews and captained Air Seychelles’ B767 jets, inspiring women in aviation. She showed other women in Seychelles that they could do anything they set their minds to.

Investing in women
Image Courtesy Nadège Djitrinou Fagla/

Women in Bangladesh: Women in Bangladesh have been part of a livelihood program to ensure their families’ food security. This not only empowers the women themselves but also contributes to the overall well-being of their families and communities.

Nadège Djitrinou from Benin: Nadège Djitrinou, the Country Director of World Education Benin, has been investing in women by equipping them with resources and opportunities to promote their personal and economic growth. She has created over 600 mothers’ associations that serve as an entry point for educational and women’s empowerment activities.

Women-led Startups: Around the world, there is growing evidence to suggest that diverse, women-led startups and businesses are financially more successful than their peers. The International Finance Corporation found that companies with gender-balanced leadership teams had valuation increases up to 25% higher than those with non-diverse teams.

Initiatives in Driving Financial Inclusion Worldwide

Investing in women
Image Courtesy: UN Women Asia and The Pacific

There are several successful initiatives worldwide that have significantly contributed to promoting financial inclusion for women.

1. Women’s World Banking: This organization has helped over 8.6 million women in seven countries access financial services through 26 projects. They focus on giving low-income women the tools they need to be financially secure.

2. CGAP’s Approach: CGAP helps poor people, especially women, use financial services to make money, access important services, and maintain a decent standard of living. They also bring together experts to share ideas and solutions.

3. Global Solutions Initiative: This group offers suggestions for G20 countries to improve women’s access to financial services. They aim to help women without bank accounts get them, support women in starting businesses, and address issues affecting women’s financial well-being.

4. Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE): AWE is like a school for women who want to start their own businesses. It’s online and helps women from almost 100 countries learn how to run a business. They offer classes, training, and chances to meet other entrepreneurs.

5. eTrade for Women: This is a project by UNCTAD that uses technology to help women in business. It teaches women how to use computers and the internet to grow their businesses and make more money.

These initiatives have made progress in helping women, but there’s still work to be done to ensure all women, regardless of geography, have access to financial services for a better life and stronger communities.

It’s time to recognize the value of women’s contributions and invest in their empowerment for a brighter future for all. By prioritizing investments in women’s education, employment, access to finance, and leadership development, we can create a more equitable and inclusive economic landscape where women can thrive. As we commemorate Women’s Day, let’s recommit ourselves to dismantling barriers, promoting gender equality, and creating environments where every woman can flourish.

-Staff Reporter

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