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Women in Business – A Twinterview

Meet the panel of industry experts…

Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier (@chantalline) – Chief of UNCTAD New York (@UNCTAD)

Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier is the Chief of UNCTAD since 2014. UNCTAD is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964, to work towards a fairer and more balanced international economic regime. UNCTAD is the focal point within the UN for the integrated treatment of trade, finance, investment and technology. UNCTAD supports developing countries in accessing the benefits of a globalized economy more fairly and effectively, and helps equip them to deal with the potential drawbacks of greater economic integration.

Dr Diana Strassmann (@DStrassmann), Founding Editor of Feminist Economics (@FeministEcon) – Official Journal of the International Association For Feminist Economics (@IAFFE)

Feminist Economics is a peer-reviewed journal that provides an open forum for dialogue and debate about feminist economic perspectives. By opening new areas of economic inquiry, welcoming diverse voices, and encouraging critical exchanges, the journal enlarges and enriches economic discourse. The goal of Feminist Economics is not just to develop more illuminating theories but to improve the conditions of living for all children, women, and men.

Celia Harquail (@cvharquail) – Author of Feminism: A Key Idea for Business and Society

Celia Harquail‘s recently published book, Feminism: A Key Idea for Business and Society boldly challenges assumptions about both feminism and business. It offers a primer on feminism for business and explains feminist interventions including adding women’s voices, pushing for equality, and practicing feminist values to make businesses more successful and more just. It analyzes the obstacles organizations and individuals face in their efforts to address gender inequality, and demonstrates how feminist interventions have changed the terms of business conversations around topics such as defining work, centering the economy around care, how jobs work and wages are gendered, violence in the workplace, horizontal and peer-to-peer organizational structures that don’t depend on dominance, enlightened leadership models, and power.

The Twinterview

1. Is creating a gender-specific window in national development or business banks the appropriate way to accelerate funding to women entrepreneurs?

Chantal Line Carpentier: A dedicated fund, with a window dedicated to women, support local #entrepreneurs and #SMES with adapted solutions, especially in the south, that have limited access to finance & bypass biased introduced by referral, who are mostly men to men, and help prevent concentration of markets. #entrepreneurs #SMES have less resilience to financial crisis or natural disasters and lose market access to larger firms. A dedicated fund, would allow women-owned business to survive & thrive. A side advantage is to expose and train more men in evaluating women’s projects. Most #VC funds dedicated to women are run by women. #diversification needed.

Celia Harquail: Too much gender-focused funding is #pinkwashing, designed to “support” women businesspeople in limited ways while never actually challenging the real sexism, racism, & other systems that hold women back. See this work by @BarbOrser [Do women-focused capital funds actually help women, or are they just ‘pinkwashing?’]. Gender-specific targets for financing businesses help banks & governments hold themselves accountable to ending gender bias in funding #entrepreneurs. Targets are critical tools for system change. It is only fair that #womenEntrepreneurs get evaluated by the same criteria and funded at the same levels as men entrepreneurs.

Chantal Line Carpentier: And for that to happen they need to be able to get through the doors, which mostly does not happen. Thus the need for a dedicated national and international fund.

2. Research shows financing and capacity building are one of the best combinations of government policies, what training do women entrepreneurs need? Is it different than men?

Celia Harquail: Teach #WomenEntrepreneurs and all business people how to build #feminist businesses that end oppression, establish justice and equality, support #flourishing bc they generate fair profits, pay fair wages & offer fair returns. Programs for #WomenEntrepreneurs must stop assuming that “one (white) size fits all”. Instead, we should develop programs with/ as #BIWoC that build on and resonate with their/our lived experience & wisdom, [See]

Diana Strassmann: Feminist economists agree that women often don’t have the same access to financing as men.  However, social norms and reproductive work also constrain women’s opportunities and need to be addressed. In 2019 @FeministEcon published research on women selling improved cook stoves in Tanzania. The theory: women could better sell ICS to their peers (women) who used them than men—they should be “last mile” sellers. But this put women at the lowest levels of the value chain, limiting access to credit. @FeministEcon research showed that women & men did better at higher levels of the value chain (producers/distributors) WITH access to finance. Empowering women financially requires attention to context & is more nuanced than assumed. [See “We Learnt that Being Together Would Give us a Voice”: Gender Perspectives on the East African Improved-Cookstove (2019)]

3. What can we do to ensure women entrepreneurs take full advantage of the 4th industrial revolution?

Chantal Line Carpentier: Train girls and women in #STEM & #STEAM to innovate and engineer adapted solutions, as well as bankable projects in high growth sectors #renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, nutritious food for #SDGs

Celia Harquail: Putting more women into leadership positions in conventional, extractive businesses gives women the same opportunity as men to damage the environment and rend our collective social fabric.  This is not the “equal opportunity” we’re looking for. We should stop trying to “fix the women” entrepreneurs so that they fit better into business systems designed around men and patriarchal values. That won’t improve the situation for women or for business. Instead we should support #WomenEntrepreneurs in developing leadership skills & building businesses that reflect feminist (not feminine) values, w/the goal of transforming the economy so that we provide for everyone’s flourishing. We should teach #WomenEntrepreneurs & all people how to create products, supply chains, revenue models, governance, & profit-distribution systems that transform business because they put #feminist values into practice

Diana Strassmann: The narratives around the Fourth Industrial Revolution bring up compelling images of robots and self-driving cars. However, research shows that what really matters is whether the growth is inclusive. A feminist economic perspective emphasizes the impact of technological change on inequality & well-being, asking questions like, how are the gains from technology distributed?  Intersectional research is revealing. Do these changes make provisioning easier or more challenging? Research published in @FeministEcon draw out these issues. A feminist overview of theories of economic growth discusses how technological change plays a role in gender inequality [See Engendering Macroeconomic Theory and Policy (2019)]

Others have considered the impact of technological change on women’s outcomes in the labor market, exploring the circumstances under which productivity growth has lowered women’s access to higher-paying jobs. A classic example for developing countries can be found here: Global Defeminization? Industrial Upgrading and Manufacturing Employment in Developing Countries (2016)

4. Are women in a better disposition to take advantage of the trillion in business, offered by the SDGs. Put another way, are they more likely to tend towards inclusive and green entrepreneurship?

Chantal Line Carpentier: Women uniquely reinvest their earnings into their families and communities, and tend to design, create and innovate with purpose, lets fund their ventures & help achieve a balanced social, economic and environment development #SDGs [See Opportunities for Women in Addressing the World’s Biggest Problems]

Celia Harquail: Folks mis-diagnose why so many #inclusive, sustainable, caring businesses are founded by womxn. It’s not the founder’s woman-ness, but their #Feminist values, that make these “womxn’s” businesses different. And *better*.

5. Many studies show women entrepreneurs represent lesser risk and greater returns, why do you believe it is the case?

Chantal Line Carpentier: Several sources on this but at the end of the day, #diversity, women, or otherwise, in the room help the bottom line! Some sources: Women Business Collaborative, Reasons to Invest in Women Entrepreneurs

@WBC @NAWBONational

Celia Harquail: #WomenEntrepreneurs grow their businesses by building mutually supportive business #ecosystems, linking their companies together to build communities of #FeministBusinessPractice. See @SheEO for example:

6. What is the impact of gender inequality on economic growth?

Celia Harquail: As @CindyGallop says, “There’s a huge amount of money to be made out of taking women seriously.”  Treat women entrepreneurs seriously. Pay attention to their ideas – and FUND THEM. #WomenEntrepreneurs already concentrate their efforts in life-enhancing market segments (e.g., services, care, education). We need to value & fund these sensible efforts at least as often as we fund men & tech businesses promising 10x returns #ZebrasNotUnicorns

Diana Strassmann: Feminist economists such as @SSeguino6, @HBoushey and others show that racial and gender inequality slow economic growth. An @FeministEcon review by @SSeguino6 shows that gender gaps in education, health, unpaid labor, employment & wages slow the rate of economic growth [See Engendering Macroeconomic Theory and Policy (2019)]

How to counter this? @SSeguino6 contends that incorporating gender into macro models improves the relevance of macroeconomic theory & can yield better policy results. In another heavily cited @FeministEcon article, Klasen & Lamanna also find that gender inequality in education & employment substantially reduces economic growth [See The Impact of Gender Inequality in Education and Employment on Economic Growth: New Evidence for a Panel of Countries (2009)]

Additionally, research in the @FeministEcon special issue on Voice & Agency (22.1; funded by the World Bank) shows that furthering women’s agency in households, markets & the public sphere is vital for well-being: But economic growth is not the only or main reason for empowering women. Promoting gender equality is simply the right thing to do. And we also need to consider racial and ethnic equality. Growth only matters so far as it improves human well-being.  That means the well-being of all people.  We need to look at how the gains from growth are being distributed. The mission of the journal @FeministEcon is to improve the well-being of children, women & men and to promote human flourishing.

7. Which policies could best help reduce gender inequality and improve women’s well-being? What best practices does the evidence point to?

Celia Harquail: #Universal health care, paid #paternity & #maternity leaves, #safe and affordable transport, mid level management men with #KPI to identify high potential women and encourage and coach them to apply for promotions. Change toxic work culture in #tech sector, increase funds targeted @women #entrepreneurs (now < 3% VC in US) such that women capture 30% of wealth to be created in achieving he #SDGs through gender-sensitive solutions

Diana Strassmann: Despite progress in reducing gender inequality in many countries, institutional configurations and historically-based social norms continue to block progress. @FeministEcon authors Dilli, Carmichael & Rijpma construct a historical inequality index that illustrates this point: Introducing the Historical Gender Equality Index (2019). Mainstreaming gender equality & promoting it through fiscal policy, such as gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) is a best practice & increasingly popular tool for reducing inequality.  Read @FeministEcon for in depth research on this topic. See the @FeministEcon article by Lahey & DeVillota on the importance of maintaining GRB & NOT imposing austerity measures during economic crisis: Economic Crisis, Gender Equality, and Policy Responses in Spain and Canada (2013). @FeministEcon research also points to valuable specific areas for interventions: polygyny (Ickowitz & Mohanty), child marriage (Wodon, Nguyen & Tsimpo) & lack of bargaining power (Afoawakah) all disadvantage women & children. Gender-pension gaps must also be reduced to improve women’s well-being as they age; see @FeministEcon 24.2, [The Care Economy, Gender, and Inclusive Growth in China (2018)] where Zhao & Zhao examine implications of the gender pension gap in #China

8. How does women’s reproductive health and empowerment intersect with their economic empowerment?

Celia Harquail: Women must control their own bodies and be safe from violence — both at home and at work. Full stop.  As long as men and not women control women’s bodies, as long as women (and men) are subject to violence, control, or fear in the workplace, we cannot have a flourishing economy. Or a flourishing society.

Diana Strassmann: @FeministEcon just published an entire special issue on this topic, guest edited by @s_gammage, @shareenjoshi, @YanaRodgers [See A Special Issue on Reproductive Health, Care, and Employment (2020)]. The special issue examines the close links between women’s economic empowerment and their reproductive empowerment & outcomes. The guest editors caution against simplistic development policy that focuses on one dimension (ex: education) but ignores women’s reproductive health & choices. Research published in the special issue backs this conclusion. In Ethiopia, access to & use of contraceptives enables women to participate in the paid labor force [See Quality of Contraceptive Use and Women’s Paid Work and Earnings in Peri-Urban Ethiopia (2020)]

But gender norms persist even when fertility declines-as in Tamil Nadu, India, where research finds that educated women still prioritize child rearing over paid work [See The Demographic Transition and Women’s Economic Participation in Tamil Nadu, India: A Historical Case Study (2020)]

9. Apart from the very high personal costs for women of intimate partner violence (IPV), what is the economic impact? And, does women’s empowerment (via paid employment or wealth acquisition) decrease IPV?

Celia Harquail: In addn to IPV, everyday use of #SexualHarrassment #MicroAggressions Employment-at-Will & other forms of harm & threat diminish women’s contributions & suppress everyone’s creative vitality. At significant personal business & social cost. People don’t realize how much of management practice and “Leadership” behavior at work is supported by behind-the-scenes, subliminal threats of violence. See Ch 3 of #Feminism: A Key Idea for Business, for more details. Women and all people should be #EquallySafeAtWork

Diana Strassmann: @FeministEcon has published substantive research addressing both the macroeconomic effects of #IPV and whether increasing women’s agency, income, wealth, & bargaining power can help reduce it. @FeministEcon research shows a substantial macroeconomic loss in Vietnam caused by IPV, which weakens and may even neutralize welfare programs for women. See The Macroeconomic Loss due to Violence Against Women: The Case of Vietnam (2017).

Women’s access to money in Tanzania reduces a major trigger for violence: negotiating money from men. See the article in @FeministEcon by Vyas, Mbwambo, and Heise, Women’s Paid Work and Intimate Partner Violence: Insights from Tanzania (2015). Overall, @FeministEcon research calls for caution in embracing the idea that employment/wealth will create empowerment & protect women from IPV. See Lenze & Klasen’s analysis of Jordan: Does Women’s Labor Force Participation Reduce Domestic Violence? Evidence from Jordan (2017)

“IVP by men against their partners is one of the most glaring indicators of women’s lack of empowerment.” See further research by Oduro, Deere, and Catanzarite: Women’s Wealth and Intimate Partner Violence: Insights from Ecuador and Ghana (2015)

10. What are the effects of women’s bargaining power on (desired) social and economic outcomes? More specifically: How do we assess and measure women’s autonomy/agency/empowerment in ways that are meaningful to women’s lives?

Chantal Line Carpentier: Very topical question. I invite you to read @UNCTAD Deputy SG @Isabelle_Durant piece on the issue: A diplomatic need: Women influencing the negotiation table.

Diana Strassmann: Women’s agency is more than just holding a job or gaining education. It can be defined as the ability to set goals, achieve them, and act on them. See Measuring Women’s Agency (2020). Improving women’s agency is crucial to their well-being but scholars disagree on how to measure it; from @FeministEcon notes that approaches should include different dimensions, contexts, age groups & decision-making areas. One dimension of agency is women’s ownership & control of assets. Doss, Kieran & Kilic review best practices in measuring assets, which they call “key inputs into empowerment.” See Measuring Ownership, Control, and use of Assets (2019). Improving measures of women’s agency–including wealth–is vital as it facilitates creation of policies that are meaningful to women’s actual lives.

11. What does a sustainable future look like — How does the valuing or devaluing of care (largely performed by women) connect gender (in)justice with other forms of (in)justice, such as ecological/environmental (in)justice?

Chantal Line Carpentier:  As #Agenda2030 & @antonioguterres made clear, we won’t achieve #GlobalGoals #SDGS without achieving economic empowerment of women. There can be no such things when women provide US $10.8 trillion of unpaid work (@Oxfam). @UNCTAD finds that austerity measures that cut in social safety nets increase women #unpaid care work, increase women and their children’s poverty, especially in developing and other countries with lacking social services. These millions of hours #women spend caring for elders, children and communities, are hours they don’t have to develop their businesses. Should we be surprised of their lesser motivation to grow their businesses?

Celia Harquail: A future that is economically environmentally and socially #sustainable will be built on justice #feminist business practices  that end oppression, establish equality, and create #flourishing for 100% of us. #FutureOfWork

Diana Strassmann: @FeministEcon recently published a symposium on Ecology, Sustainability & Care, which examines these questions in depth: Ecology, Sustainability, and Care: Developments in the Field (2018). @FeministEcon published a pathbreaking article by Marilyn Power showing the linkages among social provisioning, care work, and the environment: Social Provisioning as a Starting Point for Feminist Economics (2004).

Care is traditionally women’s realm; devaluing it perpetuates both gender and environmental injustice. The economic, social, and environmental, and ecological realms are interconnected. Economists and all social and natural scientists should collaborate in moving toward a sustainable future. Environmental crises/climate change affect women, particularly those in developing countries. Excluding gender considerations from strategies to address these concerns makes for ineffective policies.



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