By ALI CUDBY
When I hear people talk about empowerment, it often seems to be connected to ways women think and feel about themselves.
Certainly, in the world of lingerie stores, we tend to connect women “looking and feeling their best” with “being empowered.”
In 2004, when I first found bras that fit, it was a transformational moment for me. It changed how I felt in my body. It changed how I saw myself. I felt empowered when I shifted my thinking about myself and my bras.
That theme is reflected in ways “empowering women” gets expressed in the media. Check out just a few descriptions of what makes an empowered woman:
An empowered woman…
- Takes responsibility for herself
- Makes her own rules
- Honors herself: mind, body and spirit
- Lives by her inner compass
- Empowers other women
- Expresses herself unapologetically
That’s just a few I pulled from looking at an array of articles. All good stuff on this list of traits of empowered women.
At the same time, the traits on this list seem almost exclusively self-directed. As if empowerment is mostly a thing women do individually.
Not to channel my inner Carrie Bradshaw, but…I couldn’t help but wonder…
Is empowerment by building self enough? Or is it selling the mission short?
I couldn’t shake the belief that an empowered woman’s opportunity was larger…but what, exactly?
Turns out, there’s a LOT more to it.
The benefits to empowering women are much bigger than the individual. In fact, a system to empower women is a matter of economic, societal and professional growth.
Empowering women systematically is so vital; it’s the subject of a new priority initiative from the United Nations Global Compact.
Because empowering women worldwide goes straight to the mother of all drivers – the financial – and it packs a wallop. Estimates show that “empowering women across the globe could improve the global GDP with 23 trillion US dollars in 2025.” (Forbes)
According to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors and throughout all levels of economic activity is essential to:
- Build strong economies;
- Establish more stable and just societies;
- Achieve internationally agreed goals for development, sustainability and human rights;
- Improve quality of life for women, men, families and communities; and
- Propel businesses’ operations and goals.
So what does all this big money mean for the softer side of empowerment? A look at how the UN Global Compact defines “empowerment” is enlightening:
“Empowerment means that people – both women and men – can take control over their lives: set their own agendas, gain skills (or have their own skills and knowledge recognized), increase self-confidence, solve problems, and develop self-reliance. It is both a process and an outcome.” (Emphasis mine)
It’s time to step into a grander and more ambitious view of “empowerment.”
Empowerment needs to include the heart-centered side of helping women feel like their best selves – but it’s not enough. To create the best outcomes for women around the world, we must show the POWER in empowerment.
Women need to embrace our potential to impact money and business globally. Otherwise, empowerment – just like other facets in the realm of women – may end up demoted in importance.
Just like so many things in life and in business, the soft side is vitally important, but it’s not enough. To create real change, the heart of a mission must be knit into the fabric of consistent systems for growth.
To learn more about the UN Global Compact initiative and the Seven Key Women’s Empowerment Principles, go to http://weprinciples.org/