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Mary Ellen Iskenderian: There is still a gender gap in our data

Mary Ellen Iskenderian

October 23 2016

“So I would just encourage greater awareness, a greater application of big data to solve some of these issues, particularly related to gender equality.”

How is sustainability linked with financial inclusion? Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President & CEO at Women’s World Banking, sees “enormous opportunity for global growth as a result of greater financial inclusion, and even greater opportunities in global growth through gender equality”. Here she shares her vision and experience, and how this can be a source of great hope for a more sustainable future.

Patsy Doerr for Thomson Reuters Sustainability: What gives you hope?

Mary-Ellen Iskenderian: In some ways, what gives me hope is related to the question you asked about the next generation. Because we see such a heightened awareness in the younger people who come to Women’s World Banking about issues that, frankly, when I was their age, never really crossed my mind. And I think that the role of social media in bringing issues to people’s attention. Obviously we’ve seen that it can have a negative impact, and that can be really very disturbing – the role that social media has played in bullying and other debates. But by the same token, it can raise awareness to issues, and it can bring us all so much closer.

I’m always struck when I travel by how much more brings us together, and, particularly –

I think for women – in this country and developing countries – the first thing they want to tell you that they’re focusing their investments on is their children’s education. It’s a complete unifier. It’s something that every woman, or certainly every mother I have ever met, has prioritized.

I think what gives me hope is that ability for us to see that we are so much more alike than we are different. And I see that, again, social media and technology have a role in that.

So, we have better data than we have ever had, but there’s still a real gender gap in data.

McKinsey did this amazing report on the sustainable development goals last September that showed the lost opportunity or the opportunity for global GDP growth if men and women were at parity in the workforce. And it was quite extraordinary – 27 trillion dollars additional GDP growth by the year 2025. But I think an even more interesting statistic is that 12 trillion would be available in additional GDP growth if countries only did as well as their best-performing neighbor.

So they’re still taking into account regional differences.

But amid all this excitement and all this hope, the McKinsey report kept coming out and saying, “but the data on this is not all there; it’s very spotty, particularly in the financial sector.”

So I would just encourage greater awareness, a greater application of big data to solve some of these issues, particularly related to gender equality.

Watch the full interview with Mary Ellen Iskenderian here.

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