A prominent U.S. businesswoman says the global business community must realize that women are a powerful economic force, and that supporting greater opportunities for women will lead to greater prosperity around the globe. The humanitarian aid organization Concern Worldwide recently honored Barbara Krumsiek for her initiatives in socially responsible business practices. In New York, VOA's Mona Ghuneim has the story.
Barbara Krumsiek is the head of Calvert Group, a U.S.-based investment firm. She says advancing the economic, social and educational status of women is crucial to eradicating poverty and hunger around the world.
Krumsiek says corporations can "significantly affect whether women prosper or continue to fall further behind," especially in developing nations.
"In the developing world, women put in nearly two-thirds of the hours worked and produce half of the world's food, but only own one percent of its farmland," said Barbara Krumsiek. "Of the more than one billion people in the developing world who live on less than a dollar a day, 70 percent are women."
Krumsiek says that improving the rights of women around the world is an economically sound investment. She says there is still work to do in many countries, including the United States. She says women working full-time in the United States still earn only 76 cents on the dollar earned by men. If this wage gap were eliminated, she says, U.S. poverty rates would be cut in half.
"Women are the face of poverty whether we are talking about the developing or the developed world," she said. "At Calvert, we have focused our efforts on helping corporations understand they have impact on women's economic empowerment."
Krumsiek is on the board of directors of the Calvert Foundation, which provides investors with financial products and services that channel flexible, affordable capital to underserved communities. Krumsiek describes it as "investing to end poverty" and a way to sustain a community.
Concern Worldwide, a humanitarian group that works with the world's poor, shares Calvert's vision of finding sustainable solutions and empowering women. The group recently honored Krumsiek with its annual "Women of Concern" award.
Lynn Tierney serves on Concern's board of directors and says Krumsiek has found a way to link corporate business and humanitarian work.
"She's brought [taught] major corporations all over the world to realize that they have a social responsibility to take part in the very activities that happen on the ground in Darfur and in Somalia," said Lynn Tierney. "Barbara has also shown them that good values and good principles make good business."
Tierney says the Calvert Foundation is making a difference in places like Africa by lending to non-profit organizations that build affordable housing, invest in small businesses, and create community facilities. In Rwanda, for example, a client of the foundation has specifically sought out women-dominated enterprises, and provided them with credit for a coffee cooperative.
Tierney says that these kinds of investments help women get on their feet and on the road to sustainability.
Krumsiek, for her part, says it's sensible business practice to treat women well because companies fare better, but it's particularly important to have more women in senior positions. She says she will continue to push for gender equality and racial diversity.
"My experience in the industry has strengthened my commitment to work to ensure that barriers continue to fall for all of those who have been historically overlooked in the workplace, educational, and social frameworks," said Krumsiek.
Krumsiek says that promoting responsible corporate conduct can and will make a difference in the lives of women around the world.