The Double-X Factor
Andrea Sullivan with Linda Scott
A complex network of economic activity is linking women around the world in unexpected and powerful ways. Oxford professor Linda Scott discusses how this phenomenon, which she calls the “Double-X Economy,” has elevated the lives of women and girls in developing countries—and why her research is influencing big business to get involved.
Linda Scott on the Double-X Economy
It’s the idea that the women’s economy is an interconnected economy that’s developed in a coherent pattern around the world. Females have suffered from a surprisingly consistent set of rules that keep them both poor and powerless. So an economy born of exclusion emerges among women, but it’s kind of a shadow economy because it’s not monetized, or it’s informal, like a babysitter getting paid in cash. Now that shadow, thanks to things like improved communication and women’s gains in economic access, is becoming visible as an elaborately interlinked, living system with its own ethic. The women’s economy, for instance, is more clearly marked with a concern for human capital, so getting women more power and money has a positive ripple effect into a community’s future.
Linda Scott on the purchasing power of women
In the West most garments are purchased by women, regardless of who wears them. That gives them the power as consumers to vote with their wallets when they find out about sweatshop conditions for the workers making those garments on the other side of the world. Those workers are almost 100 percent female. On the other hand, there are women’s programs run by companies like GAP or Timberland that sponsor literacy training or baby care, and they do this because they know it matters to their consumers. You get these connections between women over and over, between wealth on one side and poverty on another, and what I’m trying to do is to map this economic net around the world.
Linda Scott on women as more than consumers
I would also say that whether you’re choosing to invest in women or just planning in global management, you need to step back at each project and say, “Where are the women in this? Are they consumers or workers or investors?” You have to think about where the potential connections are among the different segments. Most managers are only used to thinking of women as consumers, and it creates a blind spot for them.
Linda Scott on economic empowerment
One day I was doing a focus group with AVON ladies from the black township of Soweto. An older woman told us about a young recruit who was being beaten by her husband. She told the young woman, “Come sell Avon and you can earn enough money to leave him.” The young woman started earning money—and the husband stopped beating her. In the moment, I was unsure how to feel about that, because she shouldn’t have to buy her own safety, but it pressed me to the point of tears to realize how powerful a little hope can be. At the end of that meeting, the ladies around the table thanked me for listening to them, saying that the world doesn’t often pay them attention. I will never, never forget that focus group.
Read the full interview with Linda Scott on page 24 of Interbrand IQ: The Corporate Citizenship Issue