Two billion people today don’t have a bank account. More than half of them are women. A majority of those without a bank account live in developing countries and lack a form of identification. Again, a large percentage are women. They can’t save, manage day-to-day expenses or make even modest investments for their future or their family’s future. They aren’t counted and, by this very act, told they don’t matter.
This is a problem on many levels. But at a basic, fundamental level, it’s a problem because for society to succeed, all people must be in a position to fully contribute. That can only happen through equal partnership, equal opportunity, and equal participation. But that’s currently not the case, which is what brought the two of us together recently during a session at the Women in the World Summit in New York.
Women make up half the planet but own just a small percentage of the world’s wealth. Men enjoy a disproportionate share of land ownership, inheritance, political representation, positions of corporate leadership, and income around the world. What happens when women get more money, more power, more economic benefit? They tend to use economic gain to advance the family. They’ll feed their children. They’ll get clean water. They’ll spend it on education. Communities and societies overall benefit.
The message here is clear: If society invests in women and in the equality of opportunity they deserve, it’s an investment in a better future for all of us. The World Bank’s World Development Report on gender estimated income losses due to women being excluded from the world of work at 10 percent to 37 percent of GDP across all regions. Research by the World Bank Group, the IMF, the OECD, and private sector studies show that billions can be added to global GDP by advancing women’s equality.
The question becomes, what has to happen to bring about increased gender parity and in the process begin to unlock the billions in potential GDP? Many of the principles that drive the financial inclusion efforts our organizations are engaged in apply to gender inclusion as well.
First, to have true impact on gender parity means working together across sectors and gender. Silos won’t work. Owning solutions end-to-end won’t work. Hence, the need for partnerships. Partnerships among different players within the private sector. Partnerships between governments and the private sector – between international development organizations – and the private sector.
Public-private partnerships are the fastest, most efficient route to financial inclusion and to gender inclusion. Globally, the public sector represents the single largest, flow of money to the financially excluded. About 30 percent of what the financially excluded receive comes from governments via social security payments and other benefits. The public sector must help with regulations, with a citizen identification system, and with building a good business climate. The private sector for its part brings distribution, innovation, efficiencies, and execution.
Second, driving gains in gender inclusion and equality and sustaining those gains requires connecting more women to the networks that power the modern economy. In addition to government and financial networks, we’re talking about any number of networks, including job networks, education networks, health care networks, and transportation networks. More companies are waking up to the opportunities of connecting people to networks and driving inclusion as part of their business, from financial services to supply chain management and more. But this is only starting line of a much longer journey.
Third, to get the scale and sustainability the world will need, more of the private sector will have to participate. For that to happen, more businesses will have to buy into the business case of doing well and doing good. Understanding that business can’t succeed in a failing world is a pretty good incentive. The continued cultivation and nurture of trust across sectors will be key to inspiring more public-private partnerships going forward.
Senator Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the his-tory of this generation.” Regardless of sector or gender, each of us can make a difference when it comes to gender parity and inclusion. The opportunity all of us share is no longer just about women’s rights. It’s about human progress and creating a better future. It’s about the Power of Parity harnessed by the Power of Partnership.
Kristalina Georgieva is the CEO for the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
and the International Development Association.) Previously, Georgieva, a Bulgarian national, helped shape the agenda of the E.U., rst as Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, and later as V.P. for Budget and H.R. Follow her on Twitter at @KGeorgieva.
Ajay Banga is president and chief executive officer of Mastercard and a member of its board of directors. As a member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, he served on President Obama’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Business Roundtable and as vice chairman of the Business Council.