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Ending the week-long celebration of women’s “day” with a man

ebbf had decided that International Women’s Day is an anniversary worth extending beyond that single 8th of March day. It ought to be a daily, year-long celebration but we at least extended it to a week-long event.

ebbf thought that a good ending to this special week dedicated to women would be a post that highlights the role of men in bringing about the equal opportunities that women and men should enjoy in all fields of endeavour.

When you think of the men that have made a significant difference in the way the role of women is perceived and in giving women that equal opportunity to make a positive difference, Muhammad Yunus is certainly one of the first men that comes to mind.

He is the individual who first implemented in his home country of Bangladesh what is now a global and well known economic reality: microcredit. And not by chance the first beneficiary of the first “loan” that Mr. Yunus made, was a woman. A woman who no-one trusted and to whom no bank or financial institution would lend the 20 or so euros that she needed to buy that first cow that then got her, and her family out of poverty. And this is the fundamental concept at the origin of microcredit: trust that the person, the established or potential entrepreneur that asks for a very small credit will over time repay back that loan.

Never before Mr. Yunus introduced the concept, could an individual get any form of loan, regardless of how small that requested amount may have been without any kind of material possession that  could guarantee that loan. This was particularly true for many women in developing countries who often had problems in even entering a bank, opening an account,  or starting a business. Just imagine the – millions – of potential entrepreneurs, women who could have used their skills and talents to get their families and themselves (in that order) out of poverty and who had been denied, until the creation of microcredit, any opportunity to do so.

That may seem a blatant waste of a huge potential of solving many of today’s issues: not fully using the talents of 51% of  the world’s population. But what happens if we take this same absurdity to our “rich and developed” countries? How would you react if we were to tell you that only 5% of women are in CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies? Doesn’t that concept seem equality absurd and also a huge waste of potential to operate using all the resources available and at least giving – equal – opportunities to women and men?

In today’s unique time of crisis and opportunity we see one key way forward to make this principle of equality to bring about a more prosperous, just and sustainable possible:

raise awareness in women, but most importantly in men, of how much they and their organizations are losing out on, when they forget to focus and fully harness the female wing of their organization.

In the current fast changing times in which we operate, where uncertainty and leading in uncharted territories is our every day scenario, having more intuitive people in charge and able to make key decisions becomes an important success factor: now who would you say has more intuition, a man or a woman?

Another key success factor in today’s economy is the ability to dialogue with an increasing number of stakeholders. Whilst in the past each company, specially the larger ones, was a kind of fortress that told its stakeholders what it wanted and its customers what they should buy, today is a very different story. Words like stakeholders engagement, really open dialogues with all the organizations that your company interacts with is what will get you out of the crisis, is what will build the trust that will build the most successful long term relationships, brand affiliation and ultimately love in working for that company or buying from it. Now guess who can dialogue better between a man or a woman? And who can multitask in parallel conversations with very different tasks and stakeholders involved? Once again women are the proven experts in this area.

Of course giving equal opportunities to women and men will imply also rethinking your company, re-designing some of the ways in which you operate, decide. Introducing flexi time is just one example and has proven to be an excellent way to attract and retain and allow women, often mothers, to cope with both work and family life. Flexi time that also allows the fathers to use that extra time to relieve their working wives of family chores.

And now going back to microcredit and a couple of the principles that sustain it, we once again will see how women are the protagonists of this new era that we are living. About 90% of beneficiaries of microcredits around the world are – women -. Why can this be so? Why is there such a huge percentage of women selected?

1. when a male entrepreneur successfully launches and develops into profitability its enterprise he will first spend his money on himself and only what is left would be spent on the family. A woman will instead use first any profit she may make on the family, and only what is left would be spent on her.

2. women are more reliable and are far better re-payers than men.

3. educating a woman will educate a family: anything that you teach a woman, be it reading and writing or how to be an entrepreneur will be certainly passed onto her children and this by educating one mother you will have a significant multiplier effect of educating also all the elements of her family.

Just in case any men reading this article start to get worried about a flipping of the balance from a male dominated economic leadership to a female one, we have reassuring news in one of the core principles of ebbf that is one of balance. We are not talking about a takeover of one gender over the other but instead are offering a new way of thinking about the achievement of world prosperity through – equal – opportunities to be provided to both women and men.

The ideal and most successful teams, time and again, are proven to be those that are able to harness both the male and female qualities: a leadership team of 10 women is slightly better but still almost just as bad as a team of 10 men. The ideal and winning team is able to use all of its potential resources: – both – the intuitive, creative, empathic, dialogue-prone feminine qualities and the pragmatic, direct and to the point male ones.

“The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment. When the two wings … become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary” Baha’i Writings

We once again salute a man, Muhammad Yunus, quoting the statement made by the Nobel Prize Committee upon awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006:

“Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries. Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea. From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty.”

and he has been able to do that by putting women at the centre of the solution.

Now it is up to you: how are you going to harness the full potentiality of the female talent in your organization by giving them the – equal – opportunities that can provide you and your organization full and meaningful success?

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