What will we strive for on the next International Women’s Day?

When it comes to supporting pro-female policies, there are reasons to be optimistic, but there’s work to be done beyond International Women’s Day.

“You can be a man or a woman and be pro-female policies and pro-business,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said on Bloomberg<GO>. “Look at the tech sector: to keep their best women in the workforce, they are offering very generous paid family leave policies: not just for women, but for men, too.”


Melinda Gates: “You can be a man or a woman and be pro-female policies.” Photo: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg

According to McKinsey research, companies that have women on their boards consistently outperform those with no female representation. To combat a CEO’s response that women are more difficult to hire, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde told Bloomberg’s Francine Lacqua and Tom Keene she used to give these executives a list of female candidates to hire. 

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But if we wait for businesses to change, we’ll “be waiting for a while”, Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck told Lacqua on Bloomberg TV.

“Here’s what I think is going to be different: the cost of starting businesses today is at historic lows… All of a sudden, for women, there are more options. If I don’t like it…, I can start my own business,” Krawcheck said, a former president of global wealth and investment management at Bank of America.


If we wait for businesses to address gender parity, we’ll “be waiting for a while”, Sallie Krawcheck said. Photo: Bloomberg TV

In advertising, the role of women is high on the agenda, both in terms of portrayals of women in ads and within the agencies behind them. At Cannes last year, Proctor & Gamble’s taboo-smashing winner was the inaugural Glass Lion winner, an award that celebrates progressive work in the field of gender representation. However, Lindsey Clay, president of Women in Advertising and Communications London, told the Drum in October that the advertising industry still fails to offer equal pay, and only 25 percent of senior roles are occupied by women.

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Other fields need to work harder to achieve gender parity. Elinor Ostrom is the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics: it has been awarded to 75 male economists. Throughout her education, Ostrom was actively discouraged from completing a PhD, not least one in economics.


Elinor Ostrom is still the only woman to have won the Nobel Prize in Economics. Photo: Bloomberg Media Studios and UBS

Today, the number of women focusing their studies on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has improved, rising from single digits to more than 30 percent. But professors, researchers and leaders in finance and science identify that boys are still far more likely to pursue mathematics related subjects than girls, according to Bloomberg Media Studios’ work with UBS.

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So what will we celebrate or strive for on the next International Women’s Day? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be measuring whether the circumstances for women around the global are improving. 

“We need to be honest that women deserve many options, and they should decide for themselves what a fulfilling life is,” Gates told Bloomberg TV’s Ruhle. Ruhle’s work on gender equality includes founding the Corporate Investment Bank Women’s Network, and she currently sits on the board of trustees for Girls Inc of New York City.

“Part of collecting the statistics is to be able to say, ‘is life getting better for women in Tanzania?’ – on a whole host of measures,” Gates said. “We do look at women in business and if women are having entrepreneurial success. Are women able to do the things they want to do? We’ll use the data to measure.”

– Shannon Doubleday, March 9