Empower women, become an Agent of Change
by Yann Borgstedt, founder of the Womanity Foundation, included in the prestigious Management Today’s male Agent of Change Power List 2018.
Let me ask you a question: if you look at society through the lens of a balance sheet and half of it – namely, women – are not given the opportunity to operate effectively, can you expect it to be successful? The answer, of course, is no.
As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, I regard women’s empowerment and equality not only as the right thing for society, but also as a business imperative for development and growth. When women thrive, so can the world. I’m therefore incredibly honoured to be named as one of Management Today’s 2018 male Agents of Change. The annual power list, published this year with the Women’s Business Council, highlights the work of men who are committed to gender equality in the workplace.
I firmly believe gender equality is everyone’s business, especially as the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report estimates it will be another 217 years before we achieve gender parity.
Added to that, figures from the Global Poverty Project reveal women work two thirds of the world’s working hours but only get 10% of the income. On both personal and professional levels, this is simply not acceptable. When women can earn a living, start a business or even just feel safe moving around and speaking out in their communities, there is a positive ripple effect. Women are catalysts for healthier, more successful and more peaceful communities.
In 2005 I set up the Womanity Foundation, which focuses on impactful and pioneering approaches for the empowerment of women in emerging markets. Our WomenChangeMakers (WCM) program is a growing network of extraordinary social entrepreneurs in India and Brazil, all of whom are leading pioneering social enterprises which improve the lives of women and girls. So far, 60,000 women in India and 7,000 in Brazil have been helped with income-generating skills and support from our WCM Fellows. Meanwhile we’re in the third year of our Girls Can Code program, teaching high school girls in Afghanistan how to code and gain the vital skills they need to pursue STEM careers. Hundreds of schoolgirls are signed up to the course and can now dream of a better future for them, and their country.
Giving voice is another key cornerstone of Womanity’s work. Our ground-breaking ‘edutainment’ series, B100 Ragl, challenges the stereotypical role of women in Arab societies through innovative media content and we’re also proud to support Radio Nisaa, the first female-run radio station in Palestine. Our most recent viewing figures show these collectively have had an incredible 3.9 million listens and views. I’m also proud to have launched the Womanity Award for the Prevention of Violence Against Women which supports innovative projects seeking to combat gender-based violence in one location to be adapted and scaled up elsewhere. I believe that by addressing the root causes of violence against women we can create sustainable, systemic change.
Championing gender equality in the workplace is fundamentally important, and one of the reasons I have given executive power to Womanity’s primarily female team. Alongside this, I also sit on the advisory council of EDGE, a Swiss Foundation which works towards equal professional opportunities for men and women and I’m proud to have supported many female-led start-up ventures.
In 2014, I was lucky enough to present a TED Talk on why men should invest in women. In it, I explained that after becoming a successful entrepreneur at a young age, I was consumed with the sense that life had given me so much, I had to give back to society. What I am focused on supporting – and the change I want to see – is a collective investment in social justice, equality, and inclusion to create a world free from poverty, injustice and violence. The Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework for us all in how we can achieve this kind of world by 2030, but for me gender parity lies at the very heart of this vision.
I’m proud of how we’re helping hundreds of thousands of women and girls change their lives and make a full contribution to society. And I am honoured to be a male Agent of Change… but this is not a struggle that can be won by individuals alone, so my question is: Will you join me in working for gender equality and a better world for us all?