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The pandemic disproportionately impacted women globally, pushing millions into extreme poverty and widening the gender poverty gap. Women took on more childcare responsibilities, often at the expense of their careers. Now that we are out of the most difficult phase of the pandemic, empowering women and girls can have significant benefits for a growing economy. At this 2023 Aspen Ideas: Health session, gender equity leaders discussed how to empower women and girls. “We are demanding. We are claiming our power. There is so much more to be done and the time is now,” shared Lola Adedokun, co-chair of the Aspen Forum on Women and Girls

An inclusive society and economy must value and empower women

There’s an urgent need for an inclusive society that respects, values, and amplifies the voices and lived experiences of women and girls. Empowering them is key to achieving gender and racial equality. “I truly believe we are at a generational moment not just of opportunity but of profound obligation,” said Anne Mosle, co-chair of the Aspen Forum on Women and Girls and Executive Director of Ascend.

“How [can we] pass the baton, share space, access privilege, and make way for others so that we are truly leveraging the power of our entire community?” asked Aspen Global Innovators Executive Director and Aspen Forum on Women and Girls co-Chair Lola Adedokun. 

Including women and girls in fund distribution moves everyone toward a more inclusive society. We have so much data that reinforces that investing in women and girls, investing in local leaders, it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smarter thing to do,” said Fatima Goss Graves, CEO and President of the National Women’s Law Center.

Solving gender and racial inequality requires systemic changes

The panelists argued for changes that address both the symptoms and root causes of inequality. These include wage gaps, employment discrimination, and lack of access to quality healthcare and education.”What if we could actually change [the wage gap]?” asked Rebecca Dixon, President and CEO of the National Employment Law Project. “What I want to do is create something that I’m calling the labor market equity index where we actually track across time what’s happening with these gaps.”

The solution is also intersectional. “We know that reproductive empowerment is fully compatible with economic empowerment. These two things will mutually reinforce each other,” said Graves.

Technology and innovation will play a major role in advancing gender equality

Technology and innovation can be harnessed to advance gender equality. Founder of Narrative Nation, Kimberly Seals Allers, for example, developed the Irth app, which helps hold hospitals accountable for better maternal care. “Thinking differently about where solutions lie, who they come from,” she said, ”We can’t continue to define reproductive rights solely as the right to have a child or not have a child. It is also the right to survive childbirth, to raise that child in healthy, safe environments.”