Women in the Global Economy: Authoring Chapters, Advancing Social Change

By: Trish Tierney on Friday, March 29, 2013

In September 2011, I had the good fortune to participate in the first-ever Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women in the Economy Summit. This historic event was driven by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and like so many initiatives launched during her time in office, it was designed not only to inspire, but to spur action for change. As I listened to Secretary Clinton and other dynamic speakers—women who had achieved the highest levels of success and impact in business, government, and civil society—the idea for a book was born.

One year ago, I began with a blank sheet of paper and considered an outline. What eight topics could form a book about women and their place in the global economy? I thought about the many topics and women leaders that inspire me and might also inspire others. As the book’s outline began to take shape, I reached out to a handful of incredible women, some new and some familiar. Whether we’d met before or were speaking for the first time, what amazed me about these women—aside from their intelligence and achievements—was their eagerness to sign on, to write a chapter, to add more work to their already full plates—all with the common goal of making a difference by sharing their experiences.

“Women in the Global Economy: Leading Social Change” explores the landscape of women’s participation in the economy and the key role women’s involvement plays in fueling economic growth through the creation of stable societies. It covers the transformation that has gained a foothold in recent years, where investing in women is increasingly seen as a driver for social and economic development. In publishing this book, the IIE aims to teach corporate leaders, policy makers, and educators best practices, while also encouraging them to promote women’s economic and social participation through the implementation of effective programs.

The book draws its strength from its diverse array of voices, including that of former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, who opens the conversation with a call for “more knowledge on best practices to further our investment in women and girls.”

Later, Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO of Women’s World Banking, addresses the progress made in terms of women’s access to microfinance. She highlights tools such as mobile banking as a means to enhance the financial future of women.

Offering a grassroots perspective, Arwa Othman, a Yemeni activist, recounts joining protests in the heart of the Arab Spring in Sana’a, and addresses the status of women in a changing region.

And a chapter on market-based approaches, authored by CGI’s Associate Director of Commitments and Head of Girls & Women Penny Abeywardena, highlights how public-private partnerships are expanding markets, and in turn, opportunities for women as well.

The willingness of the authors to take on yet another project in their very busy lives made me consider just how collaborative and happy to give back most of us are at our core. In fact, I encountered similar enthusiasm and generosity during my conversations with women in Silicon Valley about their experiences as mentors to emerging women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa through IIE’s work onTechWomen. This led me to begin designing an initiative promoting women’s participation in information communications technology (ICT) last fall.

In partnership with Senior Advisor for Women and Technology at the U.S. Department of State Ann Mei Chang, and working with an array of partners from the corporate and NGO sectors, our goal is to build the pipeline of girls and women entering ICT studies and careers, and at the same time, address this pipeline’s leaks, focusing on India, Kenya, and Brazil. We hope to accomplish this by establishing a strong support network of women in ICT, locally and across borders; by offering additional trainings and job opportunities; and by creating a more woman-friendly academic and corporate ICT culture, ultimately improving the retention and advancement of women in the field.

This project is crucial: In emerging economies, the rise of ICT as a new sector offers the opportunity to recast the perception of the field in gender-neutral—or even women-oriented—terms. Breaking the male-dominated bastion is important to attract and retain more women in the ICT field, meet the growing talent needs of the sector, and in so doing, drive overall economic growth. With computer-related positions growing at twice the rate of others, ICT offers the jobs of today, and of tomorrow. The time to build that pipeline is now.

It’s still early, but we have established an exciting consortium of companies, governments, and NGOs dedicated to leveraging our collective ideas and resources to impact women and girls on three different continents. After editing this latest book–and due to our work through CGI, which recognizes the opportunity to elevate and promote women in high-growth sectors like ICT—I’m more confident than ever that organizations across sectors are invested in making an impact. As leaders, giving back is in our nature. And as global citizens, it’s in our best interests.

To purchase IIE’s book “Women in the Global Economy: Leading Social Change,” visit IIE Books.

Crossposted at the Clinton Global Initiative Blog.

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Higher Ed Series: How can we encourage more STEM education?

The top 10 universities in the world are located within the US and the UK, which makes their partnership essential in leading the world’s knowledge economies. Given the increasing demand for a workforce educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the US and UK, both governments have issued calls to action to urge higher enrollments in STEM. To bring some of the brightest minds from education, industry and independent organizations together, the British Council, in partnership with the Institute of International Education, held the fifth event in the British Council Higher Education Series entitled, Building the Pipeline: Incentivizing STEM in Higher Education.

Throughout this day long conference, dynamic speakers from the UK and US presented diverse perspectives and many common themes arose from the discussions.

Hands-on learning
Several speakers called for a reevaluation of teaching methodologies for STEM courses. Steve Barkanic of Business Higher Education Forum noted that the majority of United States higher education institutions do not teach STEM in the same way that is conducted in the field. Therefore, students’ interest and career objectives in STEM are often minimalized. Educators and industry experts alike agreed that “hands-on learning” was a key element in allowing students to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for STEM.

Martha Cyert of Stanford University referred to this as “concrete or tangible learning,” which engages students through practical problem solving closely related to the needs of the STEM workforce. Dr. Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief of Science magazine learned from his own experience of teaching a “no lecture” biology class, which thoroughly engaged his students in the activities and provided opportunities for communications development through group work. The effectiveness of this model inspired Science magazine to hold a contest for new colleges with the best laboratory models, which will be released in April 2013.

Mentoring girls
Linda Kekelis, Executive Director of Techbridge, led a break-out session on the importance of engaging young girls in STEM. Techbridge involves girls in STEM fields through hands-on projects with experienced women mentors. They have seen that many girls dream of making the world a better place, but often cannot conceptualize how to achieve this through STEM-related careers. Before joining the Techbridge after school program, most girls received limited, if any, information on STEM from their parents and teachers.
At Techbridge, the students gain inspiration from industry role models, who volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of inventors, scientists and engineers. After working with a role model, 84% of the girls felt more confident and 87% tried harder to overcome a challenge. The effects of this program have left these girls with a sense of empowerment to change the world through STEM.

Preparation for higher education
According to Steve Barkanic of Business Higher Education Forum, the first two years of undergraduate education present the steepest drop out rates. To improve retention, Dr. Michael Parrish highlighted San Jose State University’s work with high schools and community colleges to develop preparatory and prerequisite classes, allowing students to gain the skillsets needed to successfully enter university-level coursework.
Stanford University has developed a three-week summer program, the Leland Scholars Program, designed for incoming freshman from under-resourced secondary schools. Through this program, students work on designated projects with the same professors that they will work with throughout the year. As a result, students frequently interact with faculty members, increasing their potential for success.

Industry support
Arup, a global leader in engineering and design, recognizes that recent STEM graduates may still lack some skills required to be successful at their company. Consequently, Aiden Hughes explained, Arup has designed an internal training program developed for first-year employees to ensure that they feel supported at their company while fine-tuning their skillsets.

Cross-industry collaboration
According to Elizabeth Snyder from Oracle, STEM professions will be in high demand in the near future; however, there is a shortfall in data-savvy managers and of students studying STEM. This equation will leave the United States with more new STEM jobs than can be filled. It is critical, as Richard Halkett from Cisco mentioned, that industries properly assess their needs and share these insights with educational institutions, the educators and the students themselves. With current industry insights, educational institutions will have the opportunity to adjust their STEM curriculums to match industry expectations.

With a highly skilled workforce, both the UK and the US will remain global leaders in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges. From encouraging economic growth to sustaining global resources, no one industry can accomplish such tasks alone. This is why the work of the British Council is essential in incentivizing international and cross-industry collaboration to invest in the future of STEM.

Crossposted on the  British Council USA blog.