“I am honored that my concept of the Double X Economy has been recognizedby the Thinkers 50 as a breakthrough idea. Too many business people look at women only as consumers when the roles of women as investors, donors, and workers are rapidly changing the way the overall economy works. Learning to view the women’s economy as a distinctive, interconnected whole is important to doing business in the global marketplace, but it is also an important path toward a better world society.” –Linda Scott, DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Oxford University
The power of women in rich nations to encourage efforts on behalf of females who still struggle in poor, patriarchal societies is becoming a crucial force for change. Not only do wealthy women contribute to causes that benefit women, as in the Women Moving Millions campaign, large groups of female consumers alter their spending patterns to provide aid to needy women in other parts of the globe, as in the Pampers/UNICEF campaign against maternal neonatal tetanus. In several poor nations, like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the primary export industry is garment-making and the labor force is almost entirely female. In the wealthy nations, women buy the majority of all clothing purchased, regardless of who will wear it. So, efforts by Timberland or Gap to provide literacy programs or other support for garment workers in South Asia are, to a degree, aimed at pleasing the female consumer at home (and avoiding “sweatshop” scandals, such as the Nike debacle of the mid-1990s). At the same time, the earnings of garment factory workers everywhere changes the gendered nature of local economies.
NGOs and government agencies working to support economic development increasingly focus on women because the long-term benefits of supporting the female economy have now been so thoroughly documented. Bringing women into the labor force is only one reason why the female economy is important in the fight against poverty. Studies have documented that women’s spending priorities consistently privilege the health, education, and nutrition of children—thus their behavior as consumers contributes substantially to the cultivation of human capital and the long term viability of whole societies. My group at Oxford has been studying the ways that the distribution of manufactured consumer goods in the developing nations can help women. For instance, we are looking at how providing sanitary pads helps poor girls in Africa attend school, as well as the way that distribution systems like Avon and CARE Bangladesh provide important goods, like soap, as well as employment for women. By looking at both the production and consumption side of the equation, insights that help fight poverty by engaging with the full scope of the Double X Economy can be found.
The United States Federal Reserve board announced two years ago that women now control the majority of private wealth in that country. The same will be true in Great Britain in the very near future. As with their other economic behaviors, women tend to be a little different in their approach to managing wealth. They invest more conservatively than men, but do not lose in earnings as a result—and they are more likely to do “social investing” than their male counterparts. This emphasis reflects an ethos toward the care of others that can be traced through all aspects of the Double X Economy, from buying to selling to giving to investing.
While the positive aspects of the Double X Economy are important to recognize, it is crucial to remember that women are still, by and large, an economy of exclusion. The ugliest outcome of this systemic disadvantage is the overwhelming presence of young women as the objects of trade in human trafficking. Women remain a uniquely vulnerable group, worldwide, and thus are especially subject to the unprecedented rise in modern slavery. To the degree that women, and sympathetic men, everywhere come to understand how damaging it is to limit and suppress the potential of half the human population, the entire global economy will be stronger and safer.
The sum of these phenomena is a powerful new force on the world stage. For the first time in history, women are visible as an interconnected, worldwide economy—the Double X Economy–whose presence and impact can be measured and observed in every domain. This site is dedicated to documenting, researching, and discussing this important historical moment.