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Investing in women, girls pays dividends

CATHY STACKPOLE Published: August 29, 2009
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As a state that ranks 28th in per capita personal income (with $36,899, just $3,000 below the national average of $39,750), you might think our numbers regarding child well-being recently reported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation would be higher than 44th. When you marry that statistic with the National Center for Women Policy Studies ranking that puts Oklahoma 46th in great places for women to live and work, you see a pattern.

While we may not want to see the connection, our prosperity is tied to the way we treat Oklahoma women and girls.

As former President Jimmy Carter wrote recently, "The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family. It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population.” Yet, here in Oklahoma, we struggle as a state with equity.

Ultimately, it is both a human rights issue and an economic one.

Part of the ranking from the Center for Women Policy Studies addresses the lack of women in management roles and women elected to public office. Carter points out that investing in women yields positive results, but allowing women access to positions of power also creates benefits for companies and communities.

Recent economic studies bear this out. Pepperdine University found that Fortune 500 companies with the best records of putting women at the top were 18 percent to 69 percent more profitable than the median companies in their industries.