Gender Gap in the Developing World
The article below says that women in the developing world have less access to technology than the men. Why should this concern us? The developing world is far away, their customs often alien and their economic impact small. Besides this is a blog about business ethics. What does this have to do with business?
Because women in these developing countries have less access to technology, their lives are more limited than males. The attitudes and stereotypes that afflict women are more resilient and powerful when women cannot communicate freely. The locks on culture that keep women from full participation are embedded in ignorance. Free communication is a continuous counterpoint to the sterility and stupidity of embedded culture. Further, women without access to the internet, to phones, to all the modern panoply of electronic devices have less access to jobs, to knowledge such as banking and every other economic pursuit. Finally, without the ability to communicate, women are cut off from access to power. Without power, a voice in how we live, we float subject to every whim of those who do decide. For women in a patriarchal societies, that means every male who is not a small child has more say than they do.
Should there be a gender gap in earning and opportunity? It can be argued that this is a natural state of affairs and there is no lack of web sites and organizations willing to take up that challenge. Civilizations that have lasted hundreds of years have limitations on what women can and cannot do. Many are quite successful both economically and culturally. Why rock the boat? Isn’t it true that women are different than men? Doesn’t science tell us that their brains develop differently? Doesn’t political statistics indicate different voting patterns? Are they not generally lacking in muscle content and height?
Yes, those things can be argued. Women are indeed different. But do those differences imply a disparity in ability or for that matter humanity? It seems obvious to me that women are equal in intellect and judgment to males. The fact that many cultures have long histories of demeaning women is not evidence. Slavery, religious persecution, bloody wars are writ into the histories of nations. That something is custom is little sign of righteousness or correctness. Let us argue the gender gap based on evidence, not upon what has been done in the past.
What does the evidence indicate? Research has indicated small differences in certain kinds of intelligence between men and women but we have not and are not likely to be able to separate cultural effects from the data. But aside from these small differences, some favorable to men and some to women, intelligence can be said to be equally distributed. As to judgment, women do not always make the same decisions men would make under the same circumstances. But if women are inferior to men because they make different judgments, how do we decide this? Do not the judgments have to be worse in some measurable sense? If they are just different, does that imply inferiority or simple male insecurity – you don’t decide the way we do, therefore something must be wrong?
What about physical differences? Surely here we have a case for female inferiority. Small and less muscular, females are more vulnerable to abuse and less capable of hard physical work. Ask an ancient Greek and he will tell you that women can’t fight or do hard work. An ancient Roman would say the same thing. But what does modern research on the ancient world show? It shows women worked about forty hours a week in all these different eras; hard work that limited their life spans. When it came to farming they bore the bulk of the labor How about warfare? The Greeks and the Romans have a point. Spears, swords and hand to hand combat are all enhanced by physical strength. However, this was in the distant past. We now have kinetic energy weapons more commonly described as firearms. Ten and twelve years old children can successfully engage and kill the most renowned male physical specimen with an ease bordering on the casual.
After all that, there is one kind of evidence left, the evidence of the senses. My eyes, my ears and all my other perceptions have found no evidence of inferiority. Oh, women can be mystifying, maddening and sometimes just a pain but that is probably more due to my limitations than theirs. I have seen acts of discrimination against women by employers, and I have seen women perform successfully in teaching and law on a daily basis.
If women are indeed equal to men in capability and humanity, the paying them less or treating them cruelly is wrong whether in our country or in a developing nation.
But what does this have to with business ethics?
Business is dependent on the exchange of goods and services. If we limit the activities of one half of the population, do they function more or less successfully economically? Do they rise to their full abilities and produce the same goods that a person able to exercise judgment would produce? If women can’t choose what they make and can’t get education or training, is the society in which they live more or less advantageous from a business perspective? I think we can safely conclude that allowing people to rise to their full abilities is better for business. Societies function better when all participants have equal opportunities because only then can we realize our potential. We have already seen the effects of empowering minorities and the handicapped. How much more can we gain through the full economic participation of women?
What role should business play in the gender gap? Economically, the gender gap is a limitation on successful commercial activity. All other things being equal, a business functioning in a society where women have the same opportunities as men will be more prosperous. There will be more people with more and better job skills and more consumers. Therefore, it is a business problem.
What’s more, under stakeholder analysis, these women can be managers, employees and customers. That’s pretty significant stakeholding.
Women in the developing world have less access to technology. What can be done? Well, there are American businesses on the ground in much of the developing world not to mention foreign aid from this country and others. What’s more, overseas businesses do lobby for their interests in these many nations.
Why don’t we begin by empowering individual women? A business can give out cell phones as part of a benefits package to employees. A business can teach women how to use technology as part of their training. Next, we deal with the infrastructure itself. Under which circumstances do corporations and business function best? Do they do better with a full communications infrastructure or in its absence? It’s in the interest of every overseas business to have an infrastructure that makes using technology easier. That can be done by lobbying these nations’ governments, by active investment, and by contractual participation in building that communication network.
Linus Larrabee: A new product has been found, something of use to the world, so a new industry moves into an undeveloped area. Factories go up, machines are brought in, a harbor is dug, and you’re in business. It’s purely coincidental of course that people who never saw a dime before suddenly have a dollar, and barefooted kids wear shoes and have their teeth fixed and their faces washed. What’s wrong with the kind of an urge that gives people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds and, uh, movies on a Saturday night?
There is nothing wrong with that urge. There is nothing with wrong with actually making a product. There is nothing wrong with building a better and stronger world.
And one of our opportunities is to help people realize what is possible, what can be done.
If women are just pack animals with wombs, then all of this is pointless but if women have the same basic humanity as males, then all of us have an obligation to treat them fairly. Businesses carry that duty as well.
How technology widens the gender gap | The Great Debate
In low and middle-income countries, a woman is 21 percent less likely than a man to own a mobile phone, according to research done by GSMA. In Africa, women are 23 percent less likely than a man to own a cell phone. In the Middle East the figure is 24 percent and in South Asia, 37 percent,
Woods, C. (2014, March 21). How technology widens the gender gap. Reuters, U.S. Edition, Retrieved from http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/03/21/how-technology-widens-the-gender-gap/
From around the web
From the web site, P.A.P. – Blog // Human Rights, etc.
The idea behind the concept of the feminization of poverty is that high poverty rates among women are caused by discriminatory policies, practices and opinions (such as labor market restrictions, lower wages for women, lack of equal education opportunities, substandard healthcare for women etc.).
Spagnoli, F. (2011, November 20). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com/stats-on-human-rights/statistics-on-discrimination/statistics-on-discrimination-of-women/