Empowering Women Makes Strong Business Sense

Recently the documentary “Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” premiered in the U.S. on PBS, focusing on change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same name, the documentary raises awareness of women’s issues, but also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women. In the message below, Sheryl WuDunn shares her thoughts with “Unbottled” on women’s empowerment and how The Coca-Cola Company is contributing to this movement through 5by20, our initiative to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women in our global value chain by 2020.

“People often ask me how corporations can play a role to help empower women around the world when what they do as a business seems so far removed from the predicaments of impoverished women in developing countries. The developing world just seems too backward to many people to be a robust market. Years ago, people used to say the same thing to me about China, when I’d tell them about the country’s growth prospects. It was always: they are too poor to worry about now, so we’ll wait until they develop some more. At first glance, the gap always looks large, even gigantic. But those who started early in China have done far better than those who thought they could sail in later. The same thing is true in other developing countries, particularly Africa.  But what’s important isn’t so much where a country is now, but what its trajectory looks like – and Africa, Asia and Latin America are on the rise. Six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world right now are in Africa.

It’s basically a form of brand-building – one that is also quite cheap when you start early. Developing programs that empower women in Africa can and should also align with your main business. Not only can you build good will among potential consumers – after all, women are often key purchasers in emerging markets — but also can they help lift a local population who might someday improve their living standards to become your consumers. So there is a strong business case for empowering women.

Coca-Cola has created an innovative initiative called 5by20 to help reach 5 million women entrepreneurs around the world. These women work with Coke by growing fruit, selling Coca-Cola products to retailers and consumers, recycling used packaging and turning used packaging into handicrafts. By partnering with NGOs, Coca-Cola can provide these women with business skills training, access to finance and access to mentors.”

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Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide