Women For Women International CEO Rebuts Exxon Mobil CEO Over Investment In Women And Girls

Editor’s note: The Wonk Room is reporting from the Clinton Global Initiative conference this week. This is our second post.

As I noted yesterday, one of the main thrusts of this year’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference is building up human capital. To that end, CGI brought together a rather eclectic group of individuals to discuss investing in women and girls as a way of bolstering human capital worldwide. The group included the CEO’s of both Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobil, alongside Zainab Salbi, the CEO of Women for Women International, Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, and Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Women’s Issues at the U.S. State Department.

Prior to the panel, former President Bill Clinton explained that, globally, women do two-thirds of the work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn just ten percent of the income and own just one percent of the property. And when Exxon’s CEO Rex Tillerson asserted that “funding is not the issue” that keeps women and girls worldwide from gaining access to education and other opportunities that would boost their incomes, Salbi pointed out that less than one cent out of every dollar spent on development is being invested in girls:

But women still get very small, women and girls, get so very small, minuscule amount of funding…One cent of every development dollar, less than one cent goes to girls. So when you look at the larger scope of development money and how much is being invested in so many other things, women and girls get the least amount of funding. Money is not the problem in terms of if it’s available, but the political decision to say we need to invest much more in girls and women is not fully there yet.

Watch it:

That’s an awfully low percentage, especially considering the multiplier effect that investment in education for women can have. Plan International Australia found that “investing in girls is one of the best ways to end poverty, because women who are educated are likely to reinvest up to 90 per cent of their income in their family.” Plus, according to research from the World Bank, “economic growth is boosted by the number of girls who complete their secondary education and go on to earn higher wages,” which can be 10 to 20 percent higher with each year of secondary schooling.

As former President Jimmy Carter said, “the evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family. It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population.” And if, as Salbi says, it is just a matter of political will to get dollars to the right place, then pressure in the right places could work to turn the tide.