Every year on March 8th we honor women around the world by celebrating International Women’s Day. This international holiday not only recognizes women’s valuable achievements and contributions to society, it recognizes the work that still needs to be done to create a more inclusive, gender equal world.
This day resonates especially strongly this year, with the International Women’s Strike also taking place today. For the worldwide strike, women are encouraged to not participate in paid or unpaid work and to avoid spending money – with the aim of demonstrating women’s integral professional and economic role in society. Over 50 countries around the world are participating in the strike, from Canada to Cambodia.
Women’s strikes are nothing new – for decades, women have been using strikes as a form of protest to demonstrate their value to society and create change. The most famous example took place in Iceland in 1975, when 90 percent of the country’s women skipped going to the office and abstained from childcare duties to march together to demonstrate their importance. More recently in 2015, women tea workers at the Pembillai Orumai plantation in India went on strike for almost a month, winning a significant pay raise. In South Korea last summer, 30,000 female Samsung employees performed a walk-out in the early hours of the work day, demanding a close to the 40 percent gender pay gap. Samsung felt the blow of this strike, as it resulted in a 20 percent nose-dive in Samsung stock and the temporary closing of global offices.
Clearly, strikes such as these have both a social and financial impact. They demonstrate the huge extent to which women contribute to the economy – and what it would be like if women were not participants in it.
Strikes also make clear that full financial inclusion for women not only makes sense for equality and society, but it is simply smart business. Women have proven to be very loyal and proselytizing customers to the businesses they frequent – including financial institutions – when their needs are met. Women are also most often the household’s active financial managers. Yet according to the most recent Global Findex data, there remains a persistent financial inclusion gender gap: women make up 55 percent of the world’s unbanked adults. In developing countries, the average gap in bank account ownership between men and women widens to nine percent.
Globally, financial service providers are missing nearly half of the entire market. The increased financial inclusion of women presents significant growth potential for economies worldwide. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap report finds a positive correlation between a country’s gender equality levels and both per capital GDP and level of economic competitiveness. Financial inclusion and labor force participation for women need to be prioritized as a part of every country’s financial inclusion strategy.
Time and time again, women have demonstrated their critical contributions to societies and economies around the world. This International Women’s Day, let us recognize these contributions and continue to work toward a world that is inclusive to every woman.
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