ABOUT GENDER ECONOMICS

Article written by Susanne Moore – The Centre for Gender Economics 1 November 2013

Gender Economics is the fusion of sociology, economics and gender studies and looks at shifting current perceptions of gender and how we use these perceptions in framing economic policy. Very often, it is an intersection of gender, values and beliefs that create policy decisions, many of which are based on outdated models. It is important that we start to understand how economic research is conducted, how the statistical analysis is created and how this flows into policy decisions and ultimately the business bottom line.

“Gender Economics is about “dissecting and creating a new discourse around economic theory that fuses Economics, Gender and Sociology”[1]

Think of a persistent organisational challenge and start to unpick it by looking at the assumptions and environments that created the challenge in the first place, chances are the core of the challenge has been created by imposing outdated business models, values and measurements that no longer work.  Then reframe the challenge by applying new thought paradigms and you may very likely uncover innovations that lead to increases in performance.  Traditional gender stereotypes have shifted and organisations can no longer assume that they are catering to the working heterosexual white male with a wife at home because the ground rules have changed.  According to Wikipedia[2], the US LGBT consumer market in 2013 ‘is estimated to have an overall buying power of more than $835 billion’.  This demonstrates that marketing to this group requires specialisation to reap the benefits of that economy.

Much of our business culture is centuries old from the structures to the drivers, and our organisations must change to keep pace with a global economy where diversity, and cross-cultural management enforce new skills around managing complexity.

In 2009, the Harvard Business Review[3] made the bold statement that “Women now drive the world economy”, and estimated that globally women will control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending over the next five years.  Look at any social networking site or news stream and you will see articles that recognise that the financial empowerment of women is a game changer.  Businesses must now attract talent from a wider pool, some from necessity, but many recognising that by developing a “Women’s Employer of Choice” reputation, it will ultimately help them increase their competitiveness in the market.  However, it is not as simple as painting women’s issues with a ‘pink’ brush,  organisations must understand the shifts that have taken place in gendered stereotypes and how this sociological change now affects business structures and changes in economic policy formation.

Gender Economics looks at how gender influences economic decisions and how those decisions impact gender.  The way we target gender for economic gain or increased market share can either benefit or degrade the rights of marginalised groups, often leading to policy formation with an underlying gender bias overlaid with a view on how economics, policy and gender interact with society.

This emerging field challenges current economic theory, broadening the conversation to encompasses sociological complexities currently at play in society – ie: we look to deconstruct economic policy, reconstructing it in a manner that allows us to develop rational and objective tracks for further research.  Issues of female inequality have persisted for decades if not centuries and instead of talking about the issues, Gender Economics explores underneath the issue and provides new discourses that have the power to change the way we work and live.  A simple example of Gender Economics and a persistent issue is the gender wage gap in Australia that continues regardless of the amount of effort and talk that goes on.  In 1907 Australia passed a little known policy known as the “Harvester Judgement[4] that saw the start of the pay gap for women in preference to that of the ‘working family man’.  This policy was introduced primarily to give organisations a competitive advantage using cheaper female labour.  This precedent continues today with feminised work segments in organisations exploiting cheaper labour, focusing on scarcity instead of the abundance of leveraging that diversity through innovation[5].

Much of our business culture is centred on the concept of scarcity, of not enough to go around but where did this thinking process start?  Staying competitive by having unique products that differentiate you from the rest of the marketplace can lead to a culture of aggressive competition and cost cutting.  With more organisations becoming lean and agile what if the model moved from one of scarcity to one of ‘abundance’.  What are the attributes of abundance, is it just a mind shift or can we create business models that promote it?  Numerous studies of company board makeup show that the accepted female attributes of sharing and collaboration lead to a richer business environment and higher profits.

Gender Economics is the new Business Transformation, the next major resource, and will open a channel to increased innovation and creativity through Diversity of thought and the ability to maximise the management of our increasingly complex environments.  Organisations that understand that gender balance is the new competitive edge will be better equipped in a global marketplace where women take their place at the decision table.  An increased awareness of women’s economic impact at a country level and greater gender diversity at a company level means women are learning to invest in themselves and their financial future.

There are many persistent gender issue’s that just don’t seem to go away and this is particularly true in areas of gender inequality, and I feel that this is because we so often talk ‘around’ the issues instead of deconstructing them and understanding why they are issues in the first place.  The next steps are to start unpicking current thinking on economics and business, start reframing our thinking, putting age-old issues into new contexts – that is Gender Economics at its core!


[1] Quote by Susanne Moore 2013

[4] MacIntyre, Stuart (1985) ‘A fair wage’ in Winners and Losers: The Pursuit of Social Justice in Australian History, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, Ch.3, pp. 51-58 (excerpt)

[5] Diversity Program Review Framework™, Susanne Moore (2012)

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Why Gender Equality is important to our economic future

Conference on Gender Equality in Government an...

Conference on Gender Equality in Government and Business – MENA Initiative (Photo credit: OECD)

Gender Equality is important, particularly in terms of gender diversity and seeing more women in leadership.  Women make up up more than half the population in most countries, except for India and China (United Nations 2010; pg. vii) where there are more men than women, effectively creating a greater number of men worldwide.  Women are the back bone of support structures in most situations (some without choice), and are the target of marketers of consumer products, yet they do not have full representation at executive manager and board level in most organizations.

It is imperative that women claim their voice, as equal citizens, as company directors and policy makers to shape a future for our children that is inclusive and not exclusive.  Gender diversity is here,  and is rightfully being recognized as a way to improve economic outcomes by tapping into creativity, innovation and a thinking pattern outside the norm.   Gender diversity programs offer organizations a mechanism to reach female resource’s that are often hidden in supporting roles where they are merely supporters of strategy instead of the instigators or collaborators of organisational strategy.

Greater gender diversity will allow many women to input directly into our economic future as decision makers and leaders, and not be restricted to indirectly impacting the economy by being consumers and supporters.  The parenting and care giver role, traditionally attributed to female’s need not be barriers to a women’s progression to leadership roles, or economic burdens if we value those roles.  The burden of childcare still falls to many women,  often by choice, but this can also create perceived barriers to  their career advancement or their ability to have agency over themselves and their own choices.

Very often the female’s wage is seen as the ‘second income’ for a family – or the ‘little job’ as many women refer to it, so it becomes a gender issue for a couple of reasons, but most notably because in our society like most others, the idea of women as primary care givers of children reinforces the idea of a gendered role for women. Of course, both men and women can look after children, but way back in about 1890 in Australia the start of wage inequality happened with policies developed specifically to discourage women from re entering the workforce. Some of this lead to the separation of roles (market separation) and the feminizing of parts of the workforce.  Once a part of the work effort became feminized and primarily performed by women, the wage could be lowered and these female workers could be paid much less than men – since it was believed that they could only ever make a small contribution to the family income because it was well known at the time (by the men making the policy) that men were the ‘breadwinners’.

Around this time, 1907 (the Harvester Judgement), the then President of the Australian Arbitration Court, Henry Borne Higgins devised the “living wage’ that was based on what he determined to be the minimum amount required for a man with a wife and 3 children to “keep himself and his family in frugal comfort” (MacIntyre 1985, pg; 55).  Mr Justice Higgins based his calculations on his expectation that all adults would marry, and that men were always the primary wage earners.  This is important because some of  that thinking is alive and well in the minds of our policy makers today.

Most notable being ex Australian Prime Minister John Howard who put many women offside because of his strong views about a woman’s place in the home. Current Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott often expresses similar views and consequently women have to constantly fight legislation that tries to erode their ability to work outside the home. The most obvious place that this happens is in the cost of childcare. For a average young family in Australia where the male earns a take home pay of $600, the second income, usually the female’s is capped at around $400 take home (after tax).  Anything over this means that they lose any child care subsidy that they currently have, meaning that for the female to go back to full time work, they need to earn a substantial income to cover the costs of full time childcare which can be anything from $80+ per day. When you start to do the sums, she is almost better to stay at home, which some believe is the purpose of the policy. I wouldn’t like to say that, however there are issues with this way of creating policy that I think is pretty shortsighted and entrenched in the patriarchal and religious belief’s of  less enlightened times.

Another problem for single mothers is that this same system can just encourage a cash economy as they struggle to get a second income to try and get ahead. Whilst they are stuck in low paying, casual jobs, many of them are losing their skill currency and this is what is costing our economy money, because they are not working to their full potential. Many are lost to their earlier careers, often finding it hard to get back into the same employment after taking time out for child care, meaning that the valuable input of talented women is being lost to our organisations and ultimately our economy.

References

MacIntyre, Stuart (1985) ‘A fair wage’ in Winners and Losers: The Pursuit of Social Justice in Australian History, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, Ch.3, pp. 51-58 (excerpt)

United Nations Statistics Division (2010), ‘The Worlds Women, Trends and Statistics’, Department of Economics and Social Affairs, ST/ESA/STAT/SER.K/19,United Nations publication,Sales No. E.10.XVII.11 downloaded 5/04/2013, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/Worldswomen/WW_full%20report_color.pdf

Diversity Economics Research – “The profit impact of organisational gender Diversity programs”

I am doing research on “The profit impact of organisational gender Diversity program’s” and currently have completed a research proposal and am looking to work with a number of organisations to participate in the study that would be interested in working with me on completing this work. My research has indicated that there are no proven causal links between Gender Diversity Programs and organisational profitability. As part of the study I will be developing a measurement framework that can then be used to measure both the effectiveness of these programs and any causal link to profitability – I refer to this as Diversity Economics.

Executive Summary:

This study will compare Gender Diversity Program frameworks for effectiveness, and identify and evaluate linkages to organizational profitability. It will focus on the effectiveness (or otherwise) of Gender Diversity Programs (GDPs) within organisations in an effort to explore their relationship with the recruitment and retention of women in senior leadership roles. The aims and objectives of this research are;

1. To establish a link between Gender Diversity Programs and profit;

2. To develop a repeatable framework for the measurement of this effectiveness;

3. To develop benchmarks that support the framework;

4. To prove a link to organisational profitability as a starting point to further study into the impact of gender on economies, i.e.: Gender Economics1.

This research proposal is the first part of a wider study to test the theory and viability of further research into Gender Economics and Diversity Economics by first establishing a link between Gender Diversity programs and organisational profitability. Gender Economics is an emerging field of study that builds on the theories of diversity and promotes the value of gender balance, particularly in the area of innovation and creativity. It recognises the ‘direct input’ of women to the economy and extends the theory that the discipline of economics ”could be improved by freeing itself from masculine biases” (Ferber, Nelson 1993: 24). Diversity Economics focuses on the organisational economics of diversity programs and follows the concepts of Economic Diversity, ”as a way to achieve economic stability” (Wagner 1993).

The second part of the study, will take the established link between Diversity Economics and profitability further to develop quantified economic models proving the case for Gender Economics using a cost benefit analysis. This proposal only deals with the first part of the study.

[1] Gender Economics is an emerging field of study, see www.gendereconomics.com with the first annual conference being held in Madrid Spain in 2008
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Gender Equality: A Good Investment

 

Melanne Verveer the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues speaks about Gender Equality being not just the ‘right choice, but the smart choice’ to grow our economies.   She talks about research that has shown where the gap between male and female equality has been closed, those countries are far more economically prosperous and see an ‘enhancement to economic action’.

She further points out that studies have shown that women invest their income in far greater numbers into education, in activities that benefits children and the community, and concludes that this can only benefit all society.

see the video here Gender Equality: A Good Investment

References;

Posted on the Women’s Center on 3 November 2011.