Brandi DeCarli is the Founding Partner of Farm from a Box, and Co-Founder of TackleBox Lab, both ventures in sustainable agriculture and clean energy technologies. Previously she was a Managing Partner of Human.kind Philanthropic Advisory Company.
As the world focuses on the United States presidential election and the appointment of the next UN Secretary-General, the role and value of women has unsurprisingly become a leading topic of discussion. While the success of women leaders around the world have grabbed headlines, it is clear that we are at a great inflection point in history. Our ecological, economic and political values are all being called into question, and the collective advancement of women is the common thread that connects them all.
Women have made some notable strides in political representation in the last 20 years. Since 1995, the worldwide percentage of women in parliament has nearly doubled. That may sound impressive, but in reality, it still only translates to a little more than 20% of women holding office. Even with the political achievements of Angela Merkel and Michelle Bachelet , and with the historic importance of the United States nominating Hillary Clinton as the presidential candidate, only two countries in the world have equal participation of women in government: Bolivia at 53% and Rwanda at 63%.
Having women more equally represented in public office not only upholds democratic values of a truly representative government but, globally, research has shown that nations that elect women to key national leadership offices end up with better economic performance.
While women are still painfully underrepresented in political office, the gender gap in the private sector still trails behind. Women currently hold only 4% of Fortune 500 CEO roles. In 1995 there were none. Globally, they account for only 24 % of senior management positions around the world. Despite this seemingly grim picture, women can be powerful drivers of economic development.
Maddy Dychtwald, author of Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better, noted that women today influence 83% of all dollars spent on consumer purchases. That amounts to $20 trillion in annual spending globally. By actively working to close the leadership gap and recognize the economic power of women, private sector leaders can tap into one of the most underutilized resources of talent, innovation, and profitability.
While it is vital we all actively work to increase the number of women in leadership roles, be it politically, or economically, we must simultaneously address the needs of women throughout the entire spectrum.
Women are the key producers of agriculture and are the ecological gatekeepers to building a more sustainable and equitable food supply. Producing more than half of the food worldwide, climate change affects them first and foremost.
Changing weather patterns, droughts, and resource constraints diminish crop production and affect the livelihoods and health of farmers and their families. The barriers women farmers face are high: they often do not control the land they farm, and they have much more limited access to climate-smart technologies, finance, and training.
As Founding Partner of Farm from a Box (www.farmfromabox.com), we are working to bridge that infrastructure gap and connect rural communities, and women farmers with the tools and technology they need to increase their food production and income. Our solution is all about shifting the focus from mass production to production by the masses, and about helping democratize access to the most transformative technologies.
When we talk about equality and inclusion, it is more than opening a seat at the table. It is about building empowerment and agency. Increasing agency enhances people’s freedom to act and achieve what they consider valuable, as well as freedom to pursue their goals. We must transform the status quo and build inclusive communities that honour the voice, experience, and knowledge of women from around the globe and enable them to have control of their own future. To do that, we must be willing to listen deeply, and engage in a broader contextual dialogue that allows us to more fully understand the issues at hand and how we can best address them.
This coming December, the Women’s Forum for Economy & Society convenes in Deauville, France for its annual Global Meeting. Having taken part in Women’s Forum Meetings in both Italy and Mauritius, I can tell you from experience that this a unique platform for both women and men from around the globe, to discuss the challenges and opportunities around the place of women in our economies and societies. More importantly, it brings together leaders from across the spectrum: from the public and private sectors, academics and community champions, to build a network that fosters increased action and understanding.
We live in an exquisitely connected world. Every action we take will inevitably have an effect on others. We cannot push to increase economic prosperity, or intensify food production, or press for technological breakthroughs without taking into consideration the impact of these actions on the collective whole. Recognizing the value and contribution that women make, in all forms of activity, and aggressively advancing equal opportunities for all in our economies and societies, will produce a groundswell effect that can have a massive impact.
Grace Lee Boggs, the famed American social activist, philosopher and feminist, wisely said, “You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it, and responsible for changing it.”
It is time for us to shift from exclusion, critique and polarization, and collectively make an evolutionary leap towards building a more sustainable, socially equitable, prosperous world.
Meet Brandi Decarli at the 2016 Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Deauville, Thursday 1 November at 10:15. She is among the women nominated for the 2016 Rising Talents Initiative of the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society, in partnership with Egon Zehnder, Eurazeo and EY.