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How tipping the inequality scale can yield $160 trillion

Sept 08 2020 • 3 min read • Gender Equality

Uncomfortable truths surfacing for global attention

The inequalities that many of us have known and uncomfortably, but conveniently lived with, have been heightened by the global pandemic. This period will serve as a significant reference point in history. It will matter how we respond and reconstruct our lived realities, as we look to rebuild society and economies in a more inclusive way.

An ever growing collection of indescribable outcomes, particularly pertaining to the acute macroeconomic impact of the pandemic on the global community, continues to occupy centre stage. The estimated $2trillion global recession has touched each and every one of us directly or indirectly, in a way that those who come after us will retell the story as if we were in a fiction movie. The devastation in respect to loss of income and lives cannot be under estimated. Notwithstanding that at the same time of the pandemic, deep rooted inequalities regarding black lives surfaced in the US. How does this story end one may ask? For starters, leaders will need to ask themselves a different set of questions, and not rely on their old mental models in order to effectively solve for how we emerge from this crisis as a prosperous society.

With the global spotlight on inequality, we can all now tangibly experience the impact of constrained financial latitude (regardless of our will to work hard) and how our ability to participate and contribute is compromised. In the same way, unequal pay has constrained the ability for women to fully contribute to building societies for centuries. The World bank quantified the macroeconomic opportunity cost of unequal pay, stating that paying women equal to men could lead to a global economic boost of US$160 trillion by 2025! In essence, equal pay could’ve created a buffer against the crisis should we have been on track on the equal pay agenda.

Expanding perspectives for inclusive growth

It’s understandable how, at face value, a gender parity conversation may seem untimely when compared to the unified plight to get people employed, healthy and fed in order to stimulate recovery. For us at Yugrow, the current context poses a critical question: how can this moment serve as an awakening for how we target systemic issues like unequal pay and representation of women?

Organizations may argue that at such a time, funding equal pay is unsustainable. The paradox, however, is that the opportunity to address the funding question in fact lies in accelerating representation of women. The business case has been proven, companies with higher female representation in top management outperform those that don’t by delivering 34% greater returns to shareholders.

Our view is that in order for the global economy to thrive, we can no longer afford to look at ‘growth’ from old paradigms. Expanding that perspective toward inclusive growth is critical and can unlock trapped economic value. In fact, the need for an inclusive outlook to growth is evident in how governments and companies globally are making efforts to re-engage and accelerate their commitments on the SDGs. If anything, the pandemic has shaken the 2030 Ambitions: “Although the novel coronavirus affects every person and community, it does not do so equally. Instead, it has exposed and exacerbated existing inequalities and injustices” UN SDG Report 2020.

In the quest to get to ‘equal’, we should also challenge how the contribution of women to the economy has been historically looked at primarily from a spending power lens versus the tangible contribution to driving economic prosperity.

What if, instead, we spoke more of how gender parity can enhance the broader economy? How equal pay advances the mission to rebuild a prosperous economic reality for all and not just for women?

Author: Kele Boakgomo: Co-Founder & CEO, Yugrow

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