Review: The Double X Economy
Judith Rennie is Information Management Team Leader at CNR International, and co-chair of CNR’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum (EDI Forum). She is passionate about achieving gender parity in the Energy industry and creating a more inclusive society for everyone. In the attached blog, Judith shares her views on new book The Double X Economy, longlisted for this year's Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award.
The Double X Economy: The Epic Potential of Empowering Women by Linda Scott is a data rich, evidence based presentation of how the economic empowerment of women will enhance the wellbeing and economic growth of societies everywhere.
This book addresses everything from the systematic discrimination of motherhood to what Scott terms ‘brain bigots’ where society, industry and the media use conscious and unconscious bias to discriminate against women. She discusses initiatives to increase gender diversity in the supply chain as well as an interesting new idea for Christmas to leverage economic reform for women.
One of the most powerful messages in this book was how enabling women is now a proven strategy in the fight against suffering. Scott states that no other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, reduce child mortality, improve nutrition and promote health, and increase the chances of education for the next generation than the economic empowerment of women.
Scott discusses the failure of equal pay in the UK which was revealed in the 2018 gender pay gap reporting where a consistent pattern of inequality emerged for some 15 million employees. Women in the UK women lose £140 billion a year in lost earnings. She details the shortcomings of the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Equality Act of 2010, whilst also making the point that this law heavily relies on employers making objective judgements on male and female candidates, where research shows studies proving that gender bias systematically affects employment evaluations. Evaluators are more likely to express doubts about a woman’s credentials and devalue her accomplishments, whilst finding the same credentials superior when they think the name at the top of the CV belongs to a man. She is scathing of companies that suggest they need more time to appoint women into senior management and the excuse from them that they cannot ‘magic up’ a pipeline of senior women. She states that British women have outstripped men across a wide range of qualifications and companies have had fifty years since the Equal Pay Act 1970 to create a level playing field and should not need yet more time.
Interestingly, when Scott discusses how higher education fits into gender inequality in the US, she presents evidence that more women than men enter higher education; however, Information and Communications Technology and Engineering have been comparatively unattractive to all students for most of the last fifty years; neither women or men are attracted to STEM subjects. She states that the large growth of women in business studies and life sciences suggests that women are not poor at maths, afraid of science, unable to innovate or lacking confidence. They do however require more qualifications than a man does for the same role. Interestingly, she also notes that now that 50% of all medical students are women and women are the solid majority in the biological sciences, suddenly the life sciences no longer count as a STEM subject. What can have happened there, she wonders?
Scott presents evidence that women in STEM fields where the majority of workers are men are significantly more likely to experience sexual harassment, demeaning social behaviour and sex discrimination. She suggests that, given the working conditions a woman could expect, choosing one of these disciplines is economically irrational. In this context it makes sense why women may not choose STEM subjects (and we know better balance in STEM is crucial, in a world based on problem-solving, where diverse teams can perform better, for the benefit of all).
Scott presents actions at government level, leadership, private industries and individuals. She discusses global governance, leaders and individuals having actions to build awareness of the dimensions of women’s exclusion. For employers she suggests:
· Sharing compensation information with employees.
· Allocating career opportunities to women, and promoting them.
· Evaluating and incentivising managers on their diversity achievements.
This book is an excellent resource for those wishing to grow their understanding of available data and research regarding gender equality and the economy in an accessible way. In our data driven industry it provides research insights and helpful context to draw on in response to the ‘data or it didn’t happen’ challenge we are often faced with when making the case for gender and equality. It is energising and inspirational, if slightly anger-inducing in parts. It’s definitely a must read for men and women interested in advancing women’s equality.