International Women's Day

#IWD2016: Educating About Gender Parity

Today is International Women’s Day.

A celebration of women and everything we’ve accomplished to gain the rights we have. But that’s only half the story. For every Hannah Arendt, there’s thousands of intelligent, bright minds left to wither in the world because funding is scarce and often not distributed evenly.

But it’s not just sexist poverty that limits opportunities, either. It’s the systematic segregation based on gender. Old stereotypes and a patriarchal lead global society push to limit women’s success. After all, an educated woman can be dangerous when fighting for the rights of those she calls sisters.

According to IWD, global society will not reach gender parity until 2133. That’s over a century. So how do you change that? You focus on building opportunities through education.

Education brings innovation. No, that doesn’t mean every woman should be a programmer. Though, the industry could use a lot more representation there. And all STEM fields, really. Instead education offers the chance to look at the world, to find a gap, and fill it. In fact, sub-Saharan Africa has a plethora of female entrepreneurs who use their every day roles to find ways to serve a community. And that’s the highest area per capita at 27%. Untapped community knowledge opens up job opportunities.

In an article on VenturesAfrica.com, Cherae Robinson, the CEO of Rare Customs, pointed out how women are the “natural listeners, problem solvers, and consensus builders.” Being close to the pulse of the community means understanding the forgotten or unacknowledged areas of need.  Women must find social equity in order to help those facing larger, unseen discrepancies.

“Beyond this fact, women and girls in Africa, especially in rural areas, still face inequities in access to education, finance, and opportunity. A bold set of women entrepreneurs who also reach back and work with these communities provide tangible examples of the capacity of women to have a seat at the decision making table and illuminate the possibilities for all women and girls across the continent and in its diaspora.”

Real, true power is not always a given in modern society. Power is limited to a very small section of the world. Yet more women are joining that collection. According to CNN Money, there are 145 women billionaires. That’s a massive jump from the 22 in 1995. Yes, the numbers are still stacked at only 10%, but times are changing.

Asian women billionaires are often entrepreneurs who are first-generation successes. Zhou Qunfei worked in a factory before founding Lens Technology–a business that affords $27 million in Chinese real estate and the jet setting life. And in 2014, her stake in the business was $7.2 billion. No small amount. And her experience as a factory worker allows an understanding of what her company is creating. A powerful message for employees and colleagues alike.

Education offers opportunity for success. Training, mentorship, and ongoing communication build a stronger base for each generation. College isn’t for everyone. Learning can be on-the-job training, too. It’s knowing the work, how it works, and why it works. And the more power, the more opportunities to show our abilities, means more chances for change across all levels of society.

Remember the Trümmerfrauen? They rebuilt Germany after the war, removing brick by brick. These are the women who did the hard labor to reshape their world. That’s important to remember. Even if Leoni Treber is right and only a fraction of the women worked to rebuild, it’s still an acknowledgement of needed body power and those willing to help. It’s not about exalting the actions of a woman, either. No one needs deification. It’s about saying “this is what we can do when given the chance.”

And you can’t build a strong education without the building and settings to learn in. That’s what the German women helped rebuild: an educated workforce after a very destructive period in history. Not all women needed to be teachers to prepare children for the next stage of a new world.

Poverty is a symptom of a lack of education. Open up the system to equal learning and opportunities and watch poverty slide away. Watch as American women stop making 78 cents, 64 cents, and 56 cents less than the average white American man. And innovation begins when all experiences are considered integral to understanding your business prospects. So let’s start understanding business on more than one experience level.

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