I recently attended a conference about the future of cities.
Like many conferences, this one started with a packed room of attendees ready to hear some great opening speakers.
Right at 9:00, the conference chairman came on stage to welcome us. Then came the city mayor. Then the conference organizer gave us an orientation, and an expert gave a great talk about the cities of the future. And then a powerhouse panel of five world leaders took the stage.
And that’s when I first noticed it. All the people on the panel were men.
I started thinking back through the morning. Before the panel was the conference organizer, a man. The expert before him, a man. The mayor before him, and the CEO before him, all men.
The panel took questions for an hour from a moderator – a man. Next on the agenda, a scientist – a man.
It was 11:30. The whole morning had passed. Not a single woman’s voice from the stage.
Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices
Half the people in the world are women, but women do not make up half the conversation or half the decision making about its future.
I have long believed that most of the ills of our world come from the imbalance of the missing voices of women in leadership, governance, planning, and decision making.
That’s one of the reasons that Soap Hope focuses on empowering women, particularly those who are the most disenfranchised. If women don’t have the means to earn an income, don’t have access to credit, and don’t have a seat at the table, then half the world is excluded from the conversation and the decision making. How can we expect the future of the world to serve all humanity if half of it is left out?
I agree with Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, who said, “Microcredit is about much more than access to money. It is about women gaining control over the means to make a living. It is about women lifting themselves out of poverty and vulnerability. It is about women achieving economic and political empowerment within their homes, their villages, their countries.”
Soap Hope, Women, and the Future
The conference organizers didn’t consciously exclude women that morning. But that didn’t comfort me at all – they didn’t even notice the absence of women. There is a blind spot in their understanding of the world.
Blind spots like this don’t just disappear on their own. We have to actively work not only to raise awareness and educate, but also to take action and use our resources to change existing structures that currently exclude women.
That’s why Soap Hope means so much to me. I love the idea that we can change the world with our simple system. We provide customers with everyday things – soap bars, shampoo, candles, laundry soap – and all the profits from every purchase create income for women, bring more women’s voices to the conversation, bring more women’s leadership to the society.
Soap Hope is my way of joining my voice to the many people who are asking, “Women, please join your colleagues on the stage.” I for one am very much looking forward to what you have to say.
Co-Founder, Soap Hope
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