“You cannot reach any of mankind’s goals, unless you really get there on gender. So, it gives me great hope that, at least, at the global level and at the highest political level, there is now this commitment.”
In 2015, Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, spoke to us about gender equality and sustainable development. With a career spanning over 25 years, and multifaceted experience in both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, negotiations and advocacy across issues such as; peace and security, human rights, sustainable development, climate change and gender equality, Ms Puri tells us why gender equality is crucial to achieving our global goals.
Patsy Doerr for Thomson Reuters Sustainability: Why does empowering women help make the planet more sustainable?
Lakshmi Puri: Women and their economic empowerment, in particular, contribute so much to the consumer base, increasing the consumer base, the purchasing power and also the productivity of companies as employers and employees, right? As managers, now we have data, the World Economic Forum’s studies showed a 35 percent enhancement in the capacity and the productivity of companies when women are in leadership positions.
A recent McKinsey study , that we worked with them to do, is amazing in its findings. The study was based on 96 countries and it said that if gender equality were to be achieved in these countries, in terms of participation in the work force, equal participation in the work force, equal wages and enabling women to have leadership positions, then there would be an increase of 28 trillion dollars in the global GDP. That’s equal to the GDP of US and China put together.
PD: That’s incredible!
LP: This is what we have to gain, the exponential potential of women’s economic empowerment.
PD: And people need to hear these figures, right. They need to see the impact.
LP: Absolutely, and a conservative estimate is 12 trillion dollars. So, it’s really something that businesses, but also governments and people must think about, when they think about investing in women and their empowerment.
PD: When you think about what’s happening in the world today and we’ve been talking about all this, these movements that are critical to society, what gives you hope?
LP: Well, what gives me hope is every time we move the needle at the global level, whether it is through the agenda 2030. Who would’ve thought, I could never have imagined two years ago, when we started with our advocacy on the gender goal, that we would actually have a standalone goal on gender.
Who would’ve thought that we would now be talking about accelerating, [we began by talking about acceleration and agenda 2030,] so we are now talking about hurrying history, and this is really the acceleration moment, so that gives me tremendous hope, now that we can talk about planet 50/50 by 2030.
Everything really hinges. You cannot reach any of mankind’s goals, unless you really get there on gender. So, it gives me great hope that, at least, at the global level and at the highest political level, there is now this commitment.
It’s both what governments do that matter and what movement building we can do, grass roots upwards that matters. And that’s what keeps us going, that if we can make changes in these two parts.
That’s why advocacy is important and that’s why norm setting is important, and these are the two areas, which we very strongly work on with all our partners, including you. The media is really, really an important player.