Post written for Business Fights Poverty by Baroness Shreela Flather
The poorest women of the Indian sub-continent and Africa represent a vast untapped resource. They are easy to find, hard-working and eager to learn – the perfect workforce. I want to turn these countless millions of wives, mothers and daughters into profit generators for themselves and for the global business community.
In my new book Woman: Acceptable Exploitation for Profit, I tread on a few toes along the way; tackle the great taboo of children working for a living and face up to arguments against managing an ever-increasing population using birth control. I challenge politicians to turn talking shops into practical action; the much vaunted United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) dream cannot be fulfilled by the target date of 2015. Its only hope is to shift the focus to women.
While the UN rightly identifies the private sector as the ‘engine of innovation and growth’, it fails itself by not targeting that effort at women. Women must be central to every initiative, business project and political goal, rather than afterthoughts or decoration. And this is just as applicable to the West, including the UK, where the Equality and Human Rights Commission reported in September 2008 that the
number of women in top jobs was actually falling; far from breaking through the glass ceiling, they have crashed into impenetrable triple-glazing. So let no one say that the case for women’s rights anywhere in the world has been addressed, let alone met. When we stop saying with surprise that the head of some corporation or organisation is a woman, then I will feel satisfied. The result will be profit for business, income and welfare for poor families, rescue for the environment and votes for politicians.
The arrogance is not in maintaining that any single idea can bring about a change: rather it is in believing that the status quo can continue. As we battle to emerge from global economic depression, this above all is a hopeful book offering a practical, affordable way forward. It requires no new energy source, it demands no vast capital investment and it will have no destructive impact on the environment.
The workforce is vast, willing and able. A mother will not squander her money; she will nourish her children rather than drinking herself into oblivion, and she will remain loyal to her family. This is not about charity. It is not about improving the education of women. It is all about income generation.
In my book I offer a solution for a world in trouble, a roadmap to greater opportunities, profit, prosperity, health and happiness for all, regardless of gender. And before this notion is dismissed as fanciful wishful thinking, critics should first consider some of the examples where a handful of enlightened business leaders are already reaping the rewards, just as their new female workforce are transforming their own lives and those of their families and villages. This is not pie-in-the-sky; it is happening, but so far this practical and demonstrably successful concept has not received the recognition it deserves. We live in a world struggling to feed itself, fund itself, preserve itself, so why reject an asset and talent we have failed to consider?
Add your comments below. What barriers lie in the way of women creating economic and business opportunities? What should governments and business do?