“Women are the future,” “the future is female” and stories of successful and powerful women all over the world flooded timelines everywhere as people celebrated International Women’s Day on Thursday. But while women already know that they are strong, resilient, intelligent, empathetic, caring, valuable, and important, all over the world women are still undervalued, mistreated, harassed, raped, executed, and denied human and reproductive rights.
No where is this more true than in Latin America and the Caribbean, where 14 of the regions 25 countries have the highest rates of femicide in the world. Femicide laws set in place have failed to address the legal and cultural roots of violence against women. Femicide in the region is also linked with high levels of general violence, domestic violence and drug trafficking—gangs often raping or brutally killing women who are associated with rival gangs to intimidate their enemies.
And although there is evidence that women are effective leaders—modern ideas of transformative leadership are more in line with qualities typically found in women: empathy, inclusiveness and an open negotiation style—they rarely hold positions of power. Only about one in four parliamentarians worldwide is a women, and fewer than one in five government ministers is female. As of January 2018, there are 27 female CEO’s in Fortune 500 companies, a number that is set to drop to 24 in April.
Female empowerment isn’t just a women’s issue, every person and every sector can benefit from giving women and girls equal opportunities. According to the United States Agency for International Development, when 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3% and when women have the same amount of land as men, crop yields increase by more than 10 percent.
Women’s economic equality is also good for business. According to Dhanusha Sivajee, the EVP of Editorial and Marketing at XO Group Inc., women are the most powerful consumers in the economy. According to Sivajee, global spending by women will be at about $18 trillion by 2018. And if women received equal employment and earning opportunities, that increased power would improve the economy, as women are more likely to manage household finances and make the final decision on spending. And recent research has shown that women could increase their income globally by 76% if the employment gap and the wage gap between women and men were closed—a global value of $17 trillion.
Times are slowly changing. Women have started to mobilize through campaigns like #metoo that help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace, or the #Niunamenos movement that campaigned against gender-based violence and femicide. But until we have more women in power, men should realize the benefits of empowering women and work as allies in a world that doesn’t look to punish or make men inferior, but a world where women hold the same rights and autonomy that men have always enjoyed.