Absolutely. In fact, no country in the world has managed to close the gender pay gap and women’s earnings around the world still significantly trail behind men’s. According to the World Economic Forum, at the current rate of progress, the economic gender gap won’t be closed for another 217 years.
But this inequity comes at everyone’s expense. A report from McKinsey found that closing the gender gap in economic activity would turbo charge the global economy to the tune of up to an extra $28trn by 2025 – with almost $3 trillion added to India’s GDP alone. In fact, achieving gender equality in India would have a larger economic impact there than in any other region in the world. This is an ambitious aim, but one we cannot afford to ignore.
Social norms and expectations of what we think we can and can’t do as men and women are unfortunately deeply ingrained in our societies and psyches. For instance, women are underrepresented in STEM careers, accounting for less than a third of those employed in scientific research and development globally. But this certainly isn’t just down to girls internalising gendered assumptions of what they can and can’t do from a young age – it’s also down to the barriers that arise from having to navigate deeply patriarchal societies and male-dominated work environments.
However, men can – and must – play a positive and proactive role in changing this. For example, male mentors have been hugely important in my own career. When I started out as a young barrister in 1976, it was a real struggle to find female barristers at the top of my profession, so of course most of my mentors happened to be men.
Women face a number of non-financial and financial barriers to their entrepreneurial aspirations – with access to funding being one of them. The International Financial Corporation estimates that around 65% of women-owned small and medium enterprises in developing economies are underserved by financial institutions, representing a financing gap of $260-320 billion. Even looking at a context like the United States, there is an enormous gender gap in venture capital funding – female entrepreneurs receive only about 2% of all venture funding, despite owning 38% of the businesses in the country.
As Chetna Gala Sinha, Founder of Mann Deshi and a key partner of my Foundation rightly says: “We have proved that we are bankable and there is business in us – so why, aside from microcredit, has the financial sector not come forward to provide tailored banking products suited to the needs of women entrepreneurs?”