Astrid Pregel is a retired foreign service officer and president of Feminomics a consulting firm working at the intersection of gender, leadership, entrepreneurship and the economy.
I had an unusual career for my generation of women. Fortunately, when I joined the Department of Foreign Affairs, women in the service were no longer referred to as “lady typewriters” as they had been in the beginning decades of the twentieth century. As a matter of fact, when I first joined the commercial/economic stream of the Canadian Diplomatic service, I could type but never admitted it. Before the days of the computer, everything had to be hand typed and typists were at a premium during late hours when there was panic to get documents to Minsters and senior officials. It was tough enough to be taken seriously while being blonde and cute. Had I added typing skills to the package, I likely would never have made it into the executive ranks.
I have many, many stories about my career I could talk about and perhaps there will be other opportunities to share them. For the Coffee Talk blog, I would like to emphasize the data and philosophy behind Feminomics. Joining Marlene and Kathie was not only fun it was uplifting. When I began the journey to Feminomics more than 20 years ago, I was a voice in the wilderness. Today the world has caught up and is moving ahead of me. Marlene and Kathie are part of the enormous tidal wave in Canada and around the world that is claiming equal space for defining what it means to be human through the eyes of women. The world is a better place for all the work so many women are doing! And watch what we are creating ladies. It rocks!!
So a few facts which all women of the 21st century need to take into consideration when understanding the enormous contribution they as individuals are making to the global movement of the advancement of women.
- Women are the highest educated resource in the world. There are more women than men graduating from universities around the world. In Canada 65% of bachelor degrees are awarded to women. In every country in the middle east, women are the majority of those graduating from university. Men are still the majority of graduates only in Afghanistan, Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa. The implication for governments, corporations and society in general is clear- women have many skills and talents to offer the world. The sooner women are fully included in all aspects of decision making the sooner we will be working with the best talent in the world. Canada leads the world in this regard. The 2018 Budget placed Canada squarely at the lead in taking the issues of gender into consideration for all the creation of national policy.
- Women are an increasing force for entrepreneurship in the world already owning 38% of companies in the formal measured economy. When we add all the women working in the informal economy and all the domestic work women do that is not captured in formal economic figures, it becomes clear that women already carry out the majority of the world’s work
- Around the world women make the vast majority of purchase decision. In Canada women account for 85% of all consumption decisions; in the USA the corresponding number is 95%. The power and impact of women purchasing decisions are enormous. Women are not a target or specialty market. Women are THE market. The potential for women to influence the world positively through their purchasing power is enormous and this awareness is growing rapidly.
Yet, it is also true that,
- There is a significant wage gap in every country despite women women’s extensive labour force participation
- The figures for women’s leadership in the corporate and government sectors have barely advanced in over 20 years
- Women entrepreneurs lag behind the growth and performance data of companies owned by men
- Women obtain less than 5% of the venture capital in Canada
- Women around the world continue to carry a disproportionate amount of the domestic care work load seriously eroding the time women can contribute and benefit from their economic work
And women are creating new models and creating new initiatives to overcome the challenges that continue to face us despite our impressive gains in education, labour force participation, purchasing power, and entrepreneurship.
SheEO, founded in Canada, is in my view the leading example of models being creating “by women for women” in the context of the economy. The founder of SheEO Ottawa’s own Vicki Saunders often asks audiences “Would women have created this capitalist system the way it functions now” There is always a resounding response that indeed if women had their way, the economy would look quite different. I have listed some of the SheEO principles below. Notice if you resonate with this at a very instinctual level. You can find more information about SheEO at www.SheEO.world.
SheEO is a radically redesigned ecosystem that supports, finances and celebrates female entrepreneurial innovators. The model is based on an approach of radical generosity where women cooperate. Imagine a world where cooperation is the desired operating mode and competition is not entertained. In the SheEO model. women fund and mentor each other on a volunteer basis. Pods of 500 radically generous women surround and support 5 women owned businesses annually, creating a perpetual fund for women at 0% interest. The increase in confidence levels are reflected in stratospheric growth of the companies headed by the SheEO supported women. SheEO is proving that women’s values are important and we can find new ways to live and work that is of maximum benefit to all not only to a select wealthy few who are increasingly controlling the worlds wealth.
It’s an exciting time to be a woman who is aware that real change is possible and that women are the key to a prosperous future for all.