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Diversity trumps skills – the BIL-LMDF Women Effect event (or why investing in women is the smart th

The Luxembourg-based bank BIL worked with LMDF and TIIME to run a conference on GLI (Gender-Lens Investing) and why investing in women is good business.

Putting on a gender lens to cure gender blindness

When you put on a ‘gender lens’ and start looking at your own unconscious bias, you might surprise yourself with how influenced or locked in we are in stereotypes.

There are significant misunderstandings about what gender equality would mean to society at large, and about the changes that achieving parity can bring – socially AND economically.

In economic terms, women are an undervalued asset and have a tremendous untapped potential. At TIIME, we adopted the view that anyone excluded from work is simply a waste of human capital. And women are not a ‘specialty case’ – they are HALF the world’s population.

And as microfinance has taught us (showcased by LMDF’s presentation at the event) a more equalitarian distribution of wealth and opportunities will have ripple effects on all sectors of society, improving everyone’s lives – men included!

We’re talking human rights – not PIE

There is a misperception that by giving something to women something needs to be taken from men. But the economic pie is not a zero-sum game: as more opportunities arise for women, more pie will be available for everyone.

While presenting the Edge certificate, Mathias Terhaggen pointed out that, according to McKinsey, leaving the gender gap as it is, by 2025 we will sustain a loss of up to $28 trillion of economic potential. The number is staggering and is representative of the economic realities many tend to ignore when approaching this issue: investing in women is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

Professional opportunities are crucial for the empowerment of women. A follow up study from the McKinsey Global Institute revealed that (bar a few exceptions) countries with high professional barriers for women were countries with the highest inequality at a societal level. The conclusion is obvious: women need to have financial independence in order to challenge the patriarchal societies where their voices are muted. By limiting women’s access to professional opportunities, male-dominated societies are limiting their progress in other areas of society.

Diversity trumps (we love using that word here) skills

It’s also becoming harder to ignore the evidence that shows how diversity is a key factor for success. From McKinsey to our friends at LMDF, there are multiple examples of studies that show how diversity in boards and leadership positions increases an organisation’s chances of success. Ultimately, having a variety of backgrounds, perspectives and ideas has been shown to be more important than pure skills. It’s seeing problems from a different angle, and not having the most knowledge of a particular angle, that allows you to create the killer solution that will make a difference.

Gender equality is very much a work in progress; many battles have been won, but every time there is a success, we are reminded that much more still needs to be done. In many countries, women are still second-class citizens (let’s not even think about the old Polish guy in the European Parliament…). One key to accelerate progress is to invest in women and women-led businesses. For the gap to finally be closed, it has become clear that we need to put our money where our mouths are.

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