So I’ll be in Malaysia for the next two weeks with little to no internet access, so there won’t be any new posts until I get back. So this presents the perfect time to go back to old posts and share some of your thoughts. I’m going to go ahead and be so bold as to issue a challenge to all readers of this blog to post at least one comment on a previous post until a new one is up. I know you’re up for the challenge!
So back to the topic at hand — transforming economic structures and processes. For this post, I once again turn to TED. Thanks to the TEDwomen conference that took place last week, there were several TED talks that highlighted issues of gender equality. A talk by Halla Tomasdottir from Iceland highlights the importance of bringing feminine values into the business arena. Tomasdottir and a business partner founded Audur Capital in order to introduce values such as social responsibility into financial services. The four feminine values Tomasdottir highlights include risk awareness, straight talk, emotional capital, and proﬁt with principles. She emphasizes the point that women bring a different perspective to business than men, not necessarily better, but different. This new perspective leads to better decision making and takes us away from the herd mentality. She makes the point that men and women are not the same and this is a wonderful thingsince the differences between women and men allow them to create and sustain life. From her perspective, we should be seeking to celebrate the differences between women and men and move away from this either/or mentality so we can benefit from a diversity of views.
Watch her TED talk here.
I found this TED talk that I thought was interesting and I wanted to share it. It’s not directly related to our topic at hand — transforming economic structures and processes — but in the end all the areas discussed in the document touch on the greater issue of overcoming oppressive forces that cause us to move away from our true identity as spiritual beings and this TED talk touches on this idea by highlighting how men are forced into a “man box”. This man box, Tony Porter explains, has in it the ingredients of how we define being a man. Some of these include showing no emotion, demonstrating powercontrol and being the protector. I think discussions on how our society prevents men from developing to their full capacity are important because so often we become narrowly focused on discrimination against women and forget that so long as our world is set up to place an emphasis on secondary features of our existence, we all lose out. After all, the socialization of strong men has a direct effect on women, as men exert their strength by dominating the women around them. As Porter explains, his liberation as a man is tied to our liberation as women.
Watch the talk here.
That women make up the majority of those living in poverty is an undisputed fact. At the same time, the number of women in the workforce in many countries in increasing. In an article about how the decade of women is upon us, the author highlights that various factors will contribute to a rise in women’s participation in the economy. She explains:
“In addition to the powerful worldwide consumer force that women represent today, factors such as urban migration, increased access to education, mobile technologies, micro-credit and low-market entry costs will create a global “she-conomy” where over one billion women will enter the workforce or start businesses by 2020. The study suggests:
- In the next 10 years, Gen Y women across race and ethnic lines will dominate the professional workforce, expanding their roles in upper management in professional services firms and in professions such as law and medicine.
- Women, especially those in emerging markets, will be the dominant force in the global market — taking on increased leadership responsibilities across business and education.
- On a global scale, 970 million women who have not previously participated in the mainstream economy will gain employment or start their own businesses.”
She goes on to say that women should create their own avenues of business, leadership, community and family and that conscious men will join women as they pursue this avenue. While redefining economic structures and creating new ones can be a productive means for bringing about equality between women and men, are the ideas mentioned in the article enough? While she mentions women’s capacity to show love and express emotion, is she not simply calling on the creation of more systems that perpetuate the status quo? The consumerism based model that characterizes our society has for decades been promoting this inequality by devaluting people’s true identity and their latent capacities. To continue to promote the “narrowly materialistic worldview underpinning much of modern economics” is to ignore that equality calls for more than simply creating space for women within an already ailing social order.
This next section of the document focuses on transforming economic structures and processes:
Through work, human beings develop their capacities to think, to create, to provide and care for others and to contribute to the advancement of civilization. But work cannot yield productive results for families, communities, and societies when half of the world’s population controls only 1% of its wealth, and 10% of the population controls 85% of the wealth.[i] We live in a world in which work does not yield viable subsistence for the majority and does not contribute to happiness for many others. Productive and meaningful work is not reliably available to large segments of humanity. This social reality demonstrates a fundamental crisis in the current economic system and in the assumptions and principles that underlie it. New economic thinking and new economic relationships are needed in order to overcome the current highly unstable combination of stagnation in some regions and hyperactivity in others. The way we define and arrange our economy expresses what we value and is intimately related to advancing the equality of women and men. With this in mind, we can ask ourselves what kind of economic productivity emerges from competition and conflict, and what comes from cooperation and reciprocity? Are there other sources of human motivation and economic vitality other than self-interest and competition that an economy can tap into?
Economic activity and the strengthening of the economy—a process that may include, but is not synonymous with, economic growth—have a crucial role to play in achieving the material and spiritual prosperity of a region and its people. Humanity’s growing appreciation of the economic interdependence among different regions of the world and the possibilities for global integration are also of great value. However, the narrowly materialistic worldview underpinning much of modern economics has contributed to the degradation of human conduct, the corruption and dissolution of important institutions, and the exploitation and marginalization of large segments of the population—women and girls key amongst them. Moreover, when we consider the spiritual dimensions of existence, and we acknowledge the spiritual potential that is latent within all human beings, it is clear that the assumptions underlying today’s dominant economic systems do not draw out these latent potentials—such as our capacity to love, to build unity and to serve others. Furthermore, these dominant systems are set up in such a way that in many cases they severely disadvantage those whose economic behavior is consistent with spiritual and moral principles. Finally, the fact that increased flows of goods, services, capital and labor within existing structures and processes benefit only a very few at the expense of so many—giving rise to the impoverishment of entire local communities, the exploitation of vulnerable populations, and the mass destruction of the environment—can clearly not be ignored.
Economic pressures such as these have, among other things, resulted in the disruption and dislocation of families and communities and the disappearance of diversified, ecologically sustainable small-scale agriculture, mostly in rural areas where it is often women who carry out the bulk of the work and who are disproportionately affected by these trends. Such pressures have also led to growing insecurity within local economies that have historically valued social ties and a collective sense of well-being over competition and individual advancement. To make these statements is not to romanticize the past or to promote a naïve ideal of the ‘local’ in reaction to the idea of a distant, all-powerful ‘global’. Rather, it is to recognize that diverse economic arrangements need to be explored and given space to develop. Collective human prosperity will not be achieved merely by integrating more and more people into the dominant economic order as it currently exists. This insight is directly relevant to the struggle for the advancement of women, who have been structurally marginalized within this order.
[i] The World Distribution of Household Wealth, James B. Davies, Susanna Sandström, Anthony Shorrocks, and Edward N. Wolff (United Nations University–World Institute for Development Economics Research, December 2006).
Copyright 2009, Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity