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Shivani Gopal

Shivani Gopal

November 26, 2021
| Womens Advocacy

Founder's Weekly 17th Sept 2021: Repressing women curses economic growth

New research reveals that controlling women fuels poverty

Fellow remarkable women,

The famous advice to look for the helpers has never seemed more relevant than this week. TV star Fred Rodgers once revealed that his mother would tell him during difficult times to look for the helpers, saying “You will always find people who are helping”.

She was right. 

While we are living in challenging times, there are still so many remarkable people doing good. Among them are the CEOs in the United States who’ve decided to support the Texan women who’ve been denied their reproductive rights. The CEOs are launching fighting funds and even offering to relocate families from the state. 

Closer to home, the co-founder of Canva - and Australia’s richest woman under 40 - Melanie Perkins, is giving away 30% of her fortune to help fight inequality in the world.

It’s timely news, given that new research shows countries that oppress women are more likely to be poorer and less stable.

How repressing women curses economic growth

Countries that oppress women are more likely to be poorer and less stable according to new research from Texas A&M University.

We didn’t need a professor to tell us that, but nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan desperately need a wake-up call.  

Valerie Hudson of Texas A&M University and Donna Lee Bowen and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen of Brigham Young University have released a book titled “The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide”.

It ranks 176 countries on a scale of 0 to 16 for what they call the “patrilineal/fraternal syndrome”. It measures the effect of violence against women and systematic means of female control, such as son preference, early marriage, polygamy, bride price and dowries.

Rich democracies such as Australia, Sweden and Switzerland achieved the best possible score of zero. However, Iraq was among the countries at the more dismal end of the scale, alongside Nigeria, Yemen and (pre-Taliban) Afghanistan.

According to the authors, the syndrome is responsible for four-fifths of issues in food security, and four-fifths of the variation in scores on the UN’s Human Development Index, which measures things such as lifespan, health and education.

Just because Australia scores well on the scale, doesn’t mean we can sit back on our laurels. Hudson said in a podcast to launch the book that nations that “accept that women matter” need to change how they do business.

She said they should avoid peace negotiations that are detrimental for women; track internal threats of domestic violence aren’t viewed as domestic terror perpetration and recognise that ending child marriage globally would do more for world peace than any other investment.

“I believe that one day the idea that foreign policy or national security policy could ignore the situation of women will be seen as laughably naive,” said Hudson.

In countries that score poorly, the obstacles women face begin in the womb, with sex-selective abortion and the neglect of female children. It’s estimated at least 130 million girls are missing from the world’s population as a result.

Fortunately, this situation is slowly improving. Rates of sex-selective abortion are falling, as are child marriages and polygamy. Urbanisation and the introduction of aged pensions are helping too. When women move to cities, they earn higher wages and increase their standing at home, while pensions mean elter people no longer depend completely on their children to support them, which weakens the pull of patrilineality.

Co-author Nielsen said female literacy, female participation in government and female economic participation were also vital to fighting patrilineal/fraternal syndrome and the negative economic outcomes it brings.

The syndrome is “constantly evolving, retreating, and advancing” around the world, said co-author Bowen. Regression is still possible in places that have moved away from it, so countries must remain vigilant.

“What you do to your women you do to your nation state,” Hudson warned. “And so, if you decide to curse your women, we argue that you will curse your nation state as well.”

Ironically, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, hasn’t listened to the warning from his state’s university and remains intent on destroying women’s reproductive rights.

The CEOs taking a stand on abortion rights

It has been inspiring to see US corporations take a stand against attacks on women’s rights in Texas.

As we reported earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a law that prohibits abortion once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before many women know they’re pregnant. It also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions.

Two Texas-based dating services with female CEOs – Bumble and Match Group, which owns Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid and Hinge – are among the companies that have spoken out.

"Bumble is women-founded and women-led, and from day one we've stood up for the most vulnerable. We'll keep fighting against regressive laws like #SB8," the company tweeted.

It also announced on Instagram it would donate funds to six organisations that support women's reproductive rights.

Match Group CEO Shar Dubey told her staff in an internal memo: "The company generally does not take political stands unless it is relevant to our business. But in this instance, I personally, as a woman in Texas, could not keep silent.

"Surely everyone should see the danger of this highly punitive and unfair law that doesn't even make an exception for victims of rape or incest. I would hate for our state to take this big step back in women's rights.”

Dubey is also setting up a fund to help any Texas-based employees who need to seek an abortion outside the state.

Meanwhile ride companies Lyft and Uber have both announced they will pay legal costs for any drivers who are sued for transporting women to get abortions.

“Riders never have to justify, or even share, where they are going and why,” Lyft said in a statement. “Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a healthcare appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law. Both are completely unacceptable."

Lyft CEO, Logan Green added on Twitter: “Lyft is donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood to ensure that transportation is never a barrier to healthcare access,” he added. We encourage other companies to join us.”

Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi noted on Twitter that Uber would follow Lyft's lead.

"Team @Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push," he wrote, quoting Green's announcement of Lyft's driver defence fund.

SalesForce has gone one step further and told thousands of its employees living in Texas that it will help relocate their families if they are concerned about their ability to access reproductive services.

“These are incredibly personal issues that directly impact many of us — especially women,” Salesforce told employees in a message. “We recognize and respect that we all have deeply held and different perspectives. As a company, we stand with all of our women at Salesforce and everywhere.

“With that being said, if you have concerns about access to reproductive healthcare in your state, Salesforce will help relocate you and members of your immediate family.”

CEO, Marc Benioff also tweeted: “Ohana if you want to move we’ll help you exit TX. Your choice.” Ohana is a Hawaiian term that means family.

This is what true leadership looks like – the lawmakers in Texas would do well to learn from these corporate examples instead of pushing regressive laws on women’s bodies that are detrimental to our human rights.   

Canva founder gives away her fortune to fight inequality

Another “wow” moment for The Remarkable Woman team this week was Australia’s richest woman under 40 vowing to give away her fortune to help others. Co-founders of Canva Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht, have launched the Canva Foundation and committed 30% of their equity in the company to ending inequality in the world.

“Back in 2012, we set out with the crazy big goal of empowering the whole world to design,” Perkins noted on Medium. “We believed that design was something that should be accessible to everyone, not just a privileged few. It shouldn’t matter where you live, your socioeconomic status, or even your computer experience — design should be accessible to everyone.”

Today, Canva empowers more than 60 million people across 190 countries every month.

Perkins gave the example of Tiana Day, the 18-year-old student who founded Youth Advocates For Change. She created a flyer in Canva that she says changed her life and sparked a Black Lives Matter protest across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in the summer of 2020, attracting more than 50 thousand protesters. She uses Canva to collaborate with her not-for-profit team.

“Our company values include ‘be a force for good’, ‘be a good human’ and ‘empower others’ and it’s incredibly heartwarming to see the countless examples of our team bringing these to life every day,” Perkins said.

Just when you think you couldn’t love them more, Canva institutes a “1% pledge”, where it has committed 1% of its equity, 1% of its profits, 1% of its team’s time and 1% of its products, to philanthropy. This has included giving away its premium product for free to over 130,000 non-profit organisations and allocating more than 45,000 volunteering hours each year (3 full days for everyone at Canva).

“We have this wildly optimistic belief that there is enough money, goodwill, and good intentions in the world to solve most of the world’s problems, and we want to spend our lifetime working towards that,” Perkins said.

Perkins also mentioned a topic that is close to our hearts at The Remarkable Woman – modern slavery, which we explored in a blog post this week.

“Something that moves us deeply is inequality,” Perkins said. “There are 711 million people who live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day, which means they have to make unfathomable decisions between basic human needs, for themselves and their families. It’s an issue that we have wanted to contribute towards for many years, but haven’t known where to start.

“Many studies have shown that an effective way of helping someone who has no money, is to give them money. It enables recipients to buy what they need, and have a consistent and predictable source of income, which enables them to invest in themselves and their children.

“We are really excited to launch our first pilot program with GiveDirectly. We will begin by distributing $10 million to some of the world’s poorest people in Southern Africa, using mobile payments to reach those in need.

“Following the learnings from this pilot, we hope to rapidly scale this more broadly and to contribute to the lives of as many people across the globe as we can.”

Melanie says she truly believes that what’s good for humanity is good for business. And she’s proven it with Canva, which is now valued at $US40billion. What a remarkable woman. About time we had some good news!

ARIA Awards scraps gendered categories

It’s great news that the ARIAs is making its annual awards ceremony more inclusive by removing gendered categories.

Last year Archie Roach took out Best Male Artist, while Sampa the Great won Best Female Artist. This year there will be a single award for Best Artist, with 10 nominees, as opposed to five in each of the previous categories.

“The time for separating artists based on gendered categories that exclude non-binary artists altogether has passed,” Annabelle Herd, chief executive of ARIA, said in a statement.

“The music industry is demanding a more equal, inclusive, safe and supportive space for everyone and ARIA is working hard to achieve that across the ARIA Awards and everything we do.”

Now for awards ceremonies globally to follow in their footsteps.

Here’s to the end of another week.
Happy Friday, remarkable women!

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