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More Gender Equality? Author Sylvia Ann-Hewett Says Go to an Emerging Market

Winning-the-War-for-Talent-in-Emerging-Markets

In Hewlett’s new book, Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women are the Solution, she says the reason is that opportunities arise in periods of rapid economic transitions.

By Rachel Lehmann-Haupt (Editor, Women 2.0)

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In has resurrected that sad fact that women hold only 14% of the top corporate jobs and that number hasn’t changed in a decade. We shouldn’t give up on making this change in the US, but it’s heartening to hear from economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett that in the so-called emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, that women are climbing ahead of American women to the top of corporate leadership.

In Hewlett’s new book, Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women are the Solution, she says the reason is that opportunities arise in periods of rapid economic transitions. In a recent interview on NPR, she told Renee Montagne that in Brazil, 12% of women are CEOs of major companies compared to only 4.2% in the US, according to Catalyst. She goes on to explain that one of the problems in the US is what she calls “Gender Fatigue.” “We’re surrounded by flat-lined growth, high unemployment, and women are losing heart,” she told NPR.

She attributes the main problem to the usual culprit: lack of good childcare options. Too many women in the US leave the workforce when they’re children are young and that means they permanently lose about 18% of their earning power.

The reason that women are doing better in these emerging markets is because these cultures stress more close-knit support from extended family members and have lower cost domestic support. Women in the US have children at older ages, especially those strongly focused on their careers, and older grandmothers often don’t have the energy to take care of grandchildren for long hours, or they don’t live nearby. Clearly the solution for women in the US is not to try to lower the cost of childcare for our precious childcare workers or have children in our teens while our grandmother’s are in their 40s and 50s. The solution is for companies to take some of the pressure off by offering on-site daycare or subsidizing childcare the way they help with gym memberships and transportations cost. We in the US need to look to these emerging markets for some important lessons on how to change our ways.

Women 2.0 readers: What lessons should we take from emerging markets to end US “gender fatigue?”

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt is an editor at Women 2.0 and author, essayist, and journalist interested in gender politics, work-life issues, working motherhood and the influence of science and technology on culture. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Daily Beast, New York, Vogue, Self, Outside, Wired, The New York Observer, and MSN Money. She is the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood (Basic Books, 2009). Follow her on Twitter at @rlehmannhaupt.

Photo credit: Miriam Berkley