Want a successful social enterprise? Tap into women’s talent

02Jan 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Want a successful social enterprise? Tap into women’s talent

THE untapped potential of women across the world in every walk of life is a priority that requires our urgent attention. The fact is, women still bear the biggest burden of poverty and most people living in poverty are women.

We know why and how excluding women impacts societies and economies and much is being done, by the government and other players, to advance women’s well-being and expand their roles as political, economic, family and social leaders.

But to make gender equality happen, a concerted focus on legal reform and ending violence against women is needed, and though this is happening, more needs to be done and quickly for the benefit of all; women and men, girls and boys.

A recent survey showed that men identified unconscious bias as the number one barrier to women’s advancement. That’s a great starting point.

Africa’s recent economic resurgence has raised questions of whether the process is sustainable and whether it will contribute to the continent’s transformation.

Although global experiences indicate that socioeconomic development is seldom linear, with risks for reversal, the general view is that a number of African countries are on the verge of structural transformation.

Governments have devised ‘visions’ to ensure that per capita incomes are raised to middle-income levels within a generation. They also aim to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality in incomes and opportunities.

This analysis argues that with sustained good policies, outcomes in Tanzania are bound to be different from those of the past. If men know it’s a problem, we can all start to deal with it.

We need men and women working together to eradicate workplace bias, creating flexibility in the workplace for men and women so both can share the burdens of home, providing clear opportunities for women to advance and sponsoring them to do so.

There is ample evidence that promoting women contributes more to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and improves productivity and business outcomes. So now, it’s about taking action. I, for one, won’t wait. Neither should you.

A lot has been accomplished towards closing the gap in gender inequality; abundant research has been carried out into how stereotypes still operate on an almost subconscious level‎.

Yet women still lag behind in income parity, opportunities for promotion and the ability to tap into government resources to balance home and work duties. We look forward to the day when all those issues are no longer topics of conversation, seminars and studies.

Many will be familiar with female leaders who have made or are making media headlines in Tanzania and elsewhere – inspiring women like Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, Samia Suluhu Hassan, Anna Makinda and Dr Tulia Ackson Mwansasu – many may be less aware of the other exceptional women involved with their domestic and World Economic Forum’s work and so on.

A few others from Tanzania who served in highly placed United Nations posts include Gertrude Mongella, Professor Anna Tibaijuka and Dr Rose Asha-Migiro are internationally renowned.

From an astronaut to an executive campaigning for equal rights at work, from scientists to social entrepreneurs, these women are challenging what is expected of their gender and changing the world around them for the better.

It’s tough to be optimistic ahead of next year’s International Women’s Day. But change is happening, and not just in the conventional corridors of power. In fact, the nature of power in itself is changing, becoming less top-down, less institutional and less predictable.

We would like to see a broader view when we talk about women in the workforce – We have seen a lot of talk focused on women in technology or women in the corporate sector.

Too often this conversation is skewed by prioritisation of corporate jobs over other sectors. If we want to build a better world, we need to build better equality and diversity in every sector.

Most of us work in the social sector and we are surrounded by female peers who have long leaned in, excelled in their careers – are literally changing the world and how society thinks. Where we see the biggest opportunity for growth is in redefining leadership and success.

On a recent visit to a seventh-grade classroom, we were inspired by the eager faces of girls and boys who share a passion for the joy of discovery and the sleuthing that is science.

It seems that we are working to foster a scientific community that welcomes all people to participate in the research endeavour.  In today’s global economy, gender equality is a key driver of competitiveness, innovation and productivity. Investing in women and girls in Africa can change the future of our continent.

This note has attempted to crystallise Africa’s structural transformation debate, from the point of view of a rapidly changing global dispensation, where the old arguments on the direction of Africa have little currency.

Many African countries have responded by developing their own development visions, most see reaching middle income status within a generation as the key goal, while a number underline the importance of achieving full-fledged democracy.

The visions are in some cases fairly ambitious. However, governments are determined to deliver and are constructing the machineries necessary to guide them to completion.

Moreover, in many countries the private sector is a welcome partner in the process as well as civil society. The international development community is not oblivious to these heady developments, and is generally supportive, although some habits, such as stereotyping, one-size-fits all approaches, and generally failing to reign in the multinationals, die hard.

Our daughters have always approached the life assuming equality. They grew up with their brothers who treated them as their equal. They think of it as freedom to make use of all the brainpower and emotional energy available and necessary for both men and women to give their best to whatever they do.

Women tend to think more about the communal good, which is required for progress overall in the world. We need more of that thinking, plain and simple.

If we keep the status quo in education, it won’t be until 2070 that all rural girls in Tanzania will complete their primary school education. We need to examine how we’ve created an education system that systematically excludes marginalised populations.

Little is being done with urgency to ensure that every girl has access to a classroom not just to sit, but to learn. The next International Women’s Day, let’s also prepare to celebrate the girls who will lead us in the generations to come by ensuring that every girl has the chance to fulfill her potential.

We need to remove the barriers to entry for women in tech. It’s time for the industry to value female talent and perspective. Inventing a future we actually want to live in, requires engaging the perspectives from women and men alike. Those diverse discussions lead to more informed and creative solutions.

We’ve made tremendous strides toward gender equality, but there’s much more to be done. Now is the time to make it happen.

However, the new strategy highlights that development and poverty reduction will be impossible to achieve in the absence of structural transformation.

Many African policymakers are now convinced that to lift their population from poverty on a sustainable basis will require rapid economic transformation.

This aspiration is not new and is at least as old as Africa’s independence, explaining to some extent why it has been easier to embrace it then. That inclusion and greening the economy will be important features of any sustainable approaches to the development of any country in the continent.

Generally, the visions are aware of the welfare gaps between rural and urban areas and the challenges of deep poverty and inequality in some urban centres.

The promotion of agriculture is a popular policy response, although the broad use of modern techniques in the sector will imply the displacement of rural dwellers and point to the importance of creating alternative rural livelihoods.    


Also, domestic capacity to raise revenue is receiving considerable attention. National revenue authorities have been developed in many countries, and have helped to raise revenue effort across the board.

There has been resistance in several quarters, especially the nascent industrial sector, which argues that it is excessively taxed because it is “visible”, while less “visible” activities in the informal sector are not.

Africa has enjoyed a decade of strong growth during the 2000s on the back of the natural resource that would have seemed inconceivable only a decade ago.

The widespread use of the mobile telephone and related ICT has raised the efficiency of telecommunications and helped African countries leapfrog to technological sophistication.

For instance, the mobile money platform in East African countries has revolutionised mobile banking in the country, bringing services to the remotest parts, and has been widely emulated in Africa and elsewhere.

African countries are talking of the common goal of attaining middle income status within a generation. It is argued that while Africa’s transformation is inevitable, progress will be tortuous.

There will be challenges at many levels: policy, planning and financing, and above all political economy since transformation will entail winners and losers.

But the enthusiasm and dedication with which Tanzania’s progress is being pursued at many levels has reached a hugely encouraging level from which we should launch even more efforts towards faster and more meaningful development. The untapped talent our women are blessed with will stand the nation in good stead – if we care to get right to it and utilise it fully.