Why The Government Should Pay Women To Learn

25 Aug Why The Government Should Pay Women To Learn

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I am tired of hearing about women in tech.

So is Monique Morrow, the CTO at Cisco Systems. She is an internationally sought after speaker, author, and visionary. She started the Internet of Women, a collaborative movement, and upcoming book to support women in technology.

Last year, she was up for global women in technology award and was answering some questions for a panel of judges. Their final question was, “What does success look like for women in tech?”

Monique answered, “When we don’t have to talk about it anymore. When we don’t need special conferences around the topic. When women in tech is not a topic, no longer an exception.”

Then one of the judges commented that perhaps we will need to wait for a generation or two before we see such change.

I don’t think that is true, and Monique doesn’t either.

Monique lives in Europe and travels around the world. California, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Americas. According to the news, you’d think there is hate and violence everywhere. When Monique travels, she hears stories of hope. Women who are empowering themselves and their families. Women who want to learn and create a better world. Women who want to make money doing what they love.

How does this world look? What is needed to make sure we are not a century or two away from empowering women to take on the leadership roles our world needs them to fill?

The answer: Pay women to learn.

10 years ago, I was in law school at the City University of New York. During my second year, I participated in a clinical program called the Economic Justice Project (EJP). Our goal was twofold. First, we represented single mothers within the CUNY system who had their public assistance terminated without cause. They relied on this money to continue their education while putting food on the table for their families. Second, we lobbied legislators in Albany to take a more inclusive stance on what constituted ‘work hours’ required of the recipients of public assistance to continue receiving aid. Ninety percent of women who graduated from college never went back on welfare again. The money kept them in school. The money was important.

10 years later, as I think back on that semester, I ask myself why governments around the world are not funding the education of their women. Not just through welfare where you have to jump through constant hoops, stand in long lines and do unrelated work, but money for learning skill sets that will help you with gainful employment or the tools needed to start your own company.

In the United States alone, 46 million Americans are living in poverty. What I saw working at the EJP clinic CUNY Law School was also representative of the rest of the country. Racial and ethnic minorities and families headed by single women are particularly vulnerable to poverty.

As David Nordfors has pointed out in his new book that will be released at the Innovation for Jobs Summit at the end of this month, work offered through online platforms is growing by 22% each year, compared with a 3% growth of offline jobs. By 2025, online work will add $2.7 trillion to global GDP and enable 54 million people to access jobs. There are two main problems here. First, as many as 200 million people around the world lack access to the basic skills required to participate in the global digital economy to earn a satisfactory wage. Next, many people are unaware of the opportunity the online economy presents.

Luckily, there are a number of programs offered that provide this training. For example, Monique sits on the Board of Directors for Samaschool. This NGO has a 10-week, 90-hour boot camp training that teaches students the fundamentals of how to succeed in online work and prepares them for in-demand jobs through specialized tracks and certification. Samaschool offers this service at no charge to its students to make it accessible to even the most vulnerable populations. This is a wonderful start, and there is more opportunity here.

The government should use some of the $35 billion spent each year on unemployment and pay people to learn. Yes, pay people to learn. Imagine the single mom who is paid a monthly stipend to get trained on Samaschool’s platform as a virtual assistant, graphic designer or copywriter. This takes them off the welfare system and makes them feel empowered and a sense of belonging. You are no longer in a number in bureaucratic hell, but you are an appreciated member of a team with skill sets that allow you to start earning independent of government monies. As Monique has seen, once women connect, they engage; once then engage, they embrace; once they embrace, they drive. And that’s the future. This is the Internet of Women, one that empowers everyone.

The government could also do things like paid media campaigns that show men advocating for women, or fund and produce films like, She Started It. What if there was a Nobel Prize for the company or country that embraces women as equal partners as opposed to awarding individual awards to people.

These are good places to start the shift from being a number to a human appreciated for your value. When that shift happens, you feel it. Wherever you are in this world wide web of humanity, appreciation, and empowerment fill your soul.

A little more, every day.

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