The role of women to the economy of future

Now the taboo has been overcome. For decades, discussions about gender-specific behaviour were deemed politically incorrect. This is no longer the case as idea of male superiority lurking in the background has been methodically discounted, and accordingly we are finally developing a real understanding of the strengths of women in business.

How can gender diversity spark a much-needed revolution in the world economy? Decided, there are still many impediments to women in leadership, still in developed nations for example the US, Germany and Japan. But Western societies in particular, with their ageing populations and shortage of highly skilled labour, cannot afford to ignore half of their own home-grown talent while it comes to setting future economic agendas.


The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2013 speaks to this effect. Iceland, which was ranked in the report as the most advanced country in the world in terms of gender equality - overcame the brutal financial crisis by opening up to female leadership in companies and in government. The Scandinavian countries that follow managed to maintain strong welfare states and combine them with dynamic economies by opening up to woman participation at all levels early on.

The numbers speak for themselves. Studies show that the more gender-diverse the top management of a company is the better financial and organizational performance. Cooperation, risk awareness, empathy and flexibility are not exclusively female traits, other than women in leadership exhibit them much more often than men. And increasingly, companies trying to get ahead in the global marketplace suppose these traits in their leaders.

However it isn't sufficient to bring just one or two women onto an executive board. Companies must truly embrace the benefits that a gender-equal workplace can bring. Our book, How an Economy is Becoming More Feminine; shows that it makes sense for companies to open their cultures to both genders. This is perchance the last great economic adventure, and one which may be profitable for all.


It starts with the way we think about gender with economics. Surely, it is our long history of male-dominated economic thinking that has led to gender imbalances in economic practice and business. In this model, world was a place of super rational and egoistic beings competing against each other. It was a men's world and gave men a reason to believe business was theirs to lead. For at present, economic thinking has broadened and a new generation of female economists is taking a second look at human behaviour, far from old model of homo economics. It is solving concrete, pressing problems for consumers, employees and entrepreneurs alike.

As part of our research, we have met fascinating women at forefront of this economic revolution. German entrepreneurs are fighting labour unions and rigid tradition to produce a flexible workplace for men and women alike. Icelandic bankers, unlike male competitors, have thrived throughout boom and bust. American leaders for example Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg are battling a standstill in the drive towards a gender-equal economy. Norway's leaders have joined forces to set a contentiously high quota for women at the top, with surprising success.

Strong women, from IMF's Christine Lagarde to Saudi Arabia's Lubna Olayan (many of whom we first met at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos), are heroes of our book. The world needs more of them. And they, in succession, need the world's support.


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