How to shift from women’s studies to action

*Guest post by Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder, WEConnect International

When Professor Linda Scott invited me to post on her blog, I was wondering what I could possibly add to the powerful observations she has already made about globalization and women’s empowerment, especially after she posted a review on my new book with Andrew J. Sherman, “Buying For Impact: How to Buy From Women and Change Our World.”

In her book review, she said that our ideas would never be accepted in gender studies. At first I was really surprised by the idea that the leaders who should be most interested in increasing women’s access to power would reject innovative ways to get a lot more money, and therefore power, into the hands of women.

While I assumed that capitalism is not generally viewed favorably by most Women’s Studies departments, the increased access to power and independence offered to women through global supplier diversity and inclusion seems like an obvious opportunity to be taken seriously by anyone interested in creating tangible and immediate change in the lives of women.

Women do 66 percent of the world’s work, but only receive 10 percent of the income, and own 2 percent of the property. Since women do not generally own the means of production, women do not generally benefit from the gross world product, which was over US$82 trillion in 2012.

Perhaps some of the key people who are on the front lines of fighting for gender equality do not understand or appreciate how critically important it is to follow the money and move from gender theory to gender action. While Women’s Studies programs challenge existing power structures, the immediate needs of women worldwide demand that we work within the existing systems, as this is the most direct way of creating positive change.

The concepts presented in Buying For Impact on global supplier diversity and inclusion do recognize women business owners as an underutilized group, but we assume that women have unleashed potential that must be exposed and harnessed.

We urgently need more professors like Linda Scott who have real world experience with entrepreneurship and market-based solutions, and can help bridge the communication gap that often exists between academia and the immediate needs of the very populations academics analyze.

Without a doubt, this is a paradigm shift that must happen soon if we want true empowerment for women. We need to take measurable actions that empower more women to create wealth and jobs through entrepreneurship. Not all women want to be entrepreneurs, but those who want to grow a business deserve access to the resources that will allow them to compete on an even playing field with men.

Wealth creation does not have to come at the cost of personal values. Women who value environmental sustainability, social inclusion and financial transparency can and are building new business models that make money and create shared value for women and men. The question is, how fast can we find these businesses and get them in front of large buyers who also share these values and can reward results?

While wealth creation through business ownership is not the only solution to gender discrimination, it is having a positive impact on the lives of women and their families. These women and the people who buy from them are using money to empower, rather than oppress, and therefore ought to be seriously considered by those invested in improving the status of women worldwide.

*About the author:

Elizabeth A. Vazquez is the CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International, a corporate led non-profit that helps to empower women business owners to succeed in global markets. She was born in Mexico, has a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University where she studied development economics, and is a world leader in global supplier diversity and inclusion.

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