Female empowerment currently sits front and center on the global stage. Seeing the benefits all over the world, it seems like an obvious solution to many of today’s problems. The problem with any important trend though is the misconceptions the accompany it. With the rise in focus on empowering women, the subject has become rife with myths and misinformation.
I want to clear up a few of these myths.
Myth 1: Women who lack paid employment are not contributing to the economy
Across the globe, it is still fairly common for women to be homemakers instead of having paid jobs. They are often viewed as non-contributing members of the economy. Meanwhile, they cook meals, clean homes, raise children and do many other things vital to global productivity. In this assumption, we belittle their impact and the larger role they play in society. The reality is that not having a paid job is not the same as not being productive or not contributing to the economy. These women may find empowerment through raising their children toward strong educations and productive careers. We cannot limit empowerment to one type. It undercuts the impact as a whole.
Myth 2: Having a job is the same as being empowered
Many people are aware of the expression of being a slave to your job. We know it is generally true that not all jobs are empowering. Some are quite oppressive. Nonetheless, it is still common for people to assume that having a paid job at all is automatically empowering for women. The reality is that many jobs held by women are quite oppressive. This is exactly why we need to have these conversations and create a more encompassing idea of female empowerment.
Myth 3: General economic development always helps improve the status of women
Improving the status of women has been proven to support broader economic goals, but this isn’t automatically a two-way street. Broader economic development doesn’t automatically improve the status of women. In starting with economic development, women and their needs are often cast to the side. In doing so, we limit our developmental opportunity.
Myth 4: One size fits all
When a program aimed at female empowerment is successful, there is often a desire to copy it and rapidly replicate this success. This can lead to failure when replicated in different contexts without adapting the program to the new environment. That’s why we need more research, more initiatives and more approaches adapted to the people and communities they aim to help.
Myth 5: Women just need more skills and confidence
Many women do need skills related to creating a more sustainable role in the economy, but this isn’t as a result of them. It’s a systemic problem we need to address. If gender-based discrimination and other societal barriers persist, even women with skills and confidence remain unable to find a stable career path.