Friday, July 20, 2012

Week in Review: The obvious and hidden faces of empowerment

Last month, the Atlantic article "Why Women Still Can’t Have it All" sparked a national discourse about the plight of the modern day woman. Can women thrive in solid careers while juggling familial duties? 

This week, the conversation turned to Yahoo's decision to hire Marissa Mayer as its new chief executive officer. Not only is she taking over the company, but later that day she announced that she was in fact seven months pregnant.

Mayer’s ex-colleague at Google and Facebook's current chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is another one of Silicon Valley's double-X powerhouses who embodies the “having it all” mentality. As a high level-executive of the world's most popular social networking platform, Sandberg makes a point to highlight her other very important role as a mother. 

“I walk out of this office every day at 5:30 so I’m home for dinner with my kids at 6:00,” Sandberg recently shared in an interview. By vocalizing her work-life balance, she creates an environment at Facebook where other working mothers can feel more comfortable expressing and acting on the needs of their families.

Both Mayer and Sandberg are breaking the glass ceiling in important ways. But not every image of empowerment is as obvious and pronounced as these. While it is hard to ignore the historic triumph of something like Hillary Clinton's historic 2008 campaign, many women came before her to make that moment possible. The first crack in the glass ceiling may be harder to pinpoint, but is nonetheless remarkable. 

What if one face of women's empowerment was a man's? For some of our Muslim female borrowers, starting a business is the first step, but customs, tradition or religious beliefs make them uncomfortable with having their photograph taken for their Kiva profiles. Many of their husbands step in instead. Supporting this first step in equality is equally as important and momentous. 

Empowering women is part of Kiva’s mission to alleviate global poverty. Kiva achieves this through partnering with organizations that tailor products to the unique needs of local women. 

Across the Kiva platform, women from all over the world are also providing loans. One of the leading lending teams is Women Empowering Women. This team has around 2,500 team members and 19,791 loans totaling $544,450. With half a million dollars disbursed in loan money, the impact on women’s lives is immense. 

Kiva’s long-standing Field Partner in Indonesia, DINARI Foundation and its sister microfinance institution KOPERASI MITRA USAHA KECIL (Micro Enterprise Partners Cooperative), or MUK, focuses on empowering poor women through loans, voluntary savings, and insurance to low-income women in rural areas. In addition, it provides maternal education through health training, extra food for children under the age of 5, and assists pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. 

All of these components illustrate how empowering women globally can create gender equality and give more women in the developing world the opportunity to ask themselves, "Can we have it all?"

Photos courtesy of CNN.