Too Big For Their Britches

— Andy Wade —

From climate change to economic development, women are being touted as the solution to many of our world’s biggest problems. Economist Brad DeLong states, “Only with the coming of female literacy and artificial means of birth control can a society maintain both a slowly-growing or stable population and a substantial edge in median standard of living over subsistence.”

In a World Economic Forum report, “Five Challenges, One Solution“, the argument is made that women are essential to solving issues from leadership, to climate change, to food security, to sustainability and demography. Regarding food security and agriculture, the report asserts:

In developing countries, women and girls form the backbone of smallholder agriculture. They serve as producers, labourers, processors and traders within largely domestic markets. They also dominate household-level food production and preparation. Women are responsible for 60-80% of food production in most developing countries, as well as for half of the world’s food production.”

One might assume that that is all true for the developing world, but here in the developed world, women have no more to offer than men. I would argue that what women have to offer is significantly different from men, and therefore provides a fresh wind of imagination and creativity, shining a bright light into blind spots created by a lop-sided playing field tipped sharply in favor of men. We have devalued and overlooked the contributions of women for far too long. While there have been many advancements for women, many of those advancements are squeezed into a mold designed by and for men.

The Rise of the Female Entrepreneur

One of the interesting trends over the past several years is the explosion of female entrepreneurs. Perhaps because of a lack of opportunity, or a desire to work outside a male-dominated system, or because of family commitments, or just a driving desire to be independent, women have flooded into the entrepreneurial world… and are beginning to truly change the world.

How are they changing the world?

Jackie VanderBrug, in a recent Harvard Business Review article, pointed out:

Reinvestment: In emerging markets, women reinvest a staggering 90 cents of every additional dollar of income in “human resources” — their families’ education, health, nutrition (compared, by the way, to 30-40% for men. Think of women’s increased income and assets as a gender dividend driving family, community and country wellbeing.
Job creation: Beyond their own incomes, 112 million of the GEM surveyed entrepreneurs employ one or more people. 12 million expect to employ up to six people in the next five years. That’s 72 million jobs just from this small sample. In countries like Kenya, so called “SMEs” (Small and Medium Enterprises) like this are responsible for 80% of all employment. And in the U.S., more than half of the 9.72 million new jobs to be created in the SME sector by 2018 will be created by woman-owned SMEs.
Innovation: When defining innovation as “offering products that are new to some or all customers” in some regions — including the U.S. and developed Europe — women entrepreneurs have higher levels of innovation than their male counterparts.

All this is good news for women, and for all of us! Here, in the United States, some regions are more supportive of the entrepreneurial women. Seattle was recently highlighted as the second best city in the nation for female entrepreneurs. Mustard Seed Associates’, Cindy Todd, was one of six women interviewed in Seattle about their experiences creating something new. Cindy’s, Snohomish Soap Company, is social entrepreneurship at its best… “Doing well by doing good”!

Listen to these six amazing women in Seattle

  1. Where have you seen innovation from women creating significant breakthroughs in your neighborhood, city, or world?
  2. What, if any, are the implications for the church?
  3. Speaking of church, what parallels do you see?