Women Can Save the World


By Emily Musil Church, Ph.D., XPRIZE

Empowering women is essential for creating a sustainable future.  Women and girls are particularly susceptible to challenges of extreme poverty and environmental degradation.  But we at XPRIZE are optimists for the future. We believe the future is ours to create. The best way to help save the world?  Clear the barriers that keep women and girls around the world from reaching their full potential. More importantly, bring women to the table as we design new technologies. Including women and girls is not just the right thing to do; it is mission critical.

The world community came together in late 2015 to create the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of goals and agenda to end poverty, protect the plant, and ensure prosperity for all by the year 2030. Study after study has proven that we need to empower women if we are going to build a better future. Goal #5 calls for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.  This one goal has far broader implications that affect all other SDGs, such as quality education, ending hunger, and the promotion of peaceful societies.  An educated girl is healthier, has significantly higher earning power, has healthier children, and even boosts the per capita income growth for the nation. If all women had a secondary education, child deaths would be cut in half.  Empowered women = stronger economy, healthier children, and fewer civil conflicts.

Now that we know the majority of people living in poverty are female, and that empowering women and girls is vital to creating a sustainable future, the next step is ensuring women are included in the design of bold new ideas to transform our world. Women are too often overlooked as global problem-solvers, and are not offered the opportunity or capital to create our ideal future state. We can do better.

Research shows that involving women is not only fair; it is good business. Harvard Business School confirmed that women are driving growth and innovation. Having even one woman on the team creating a product for women, improved likelihood of success by 144%. Just like other industries such as academia and corporate America, the technology industry has been too slow to include women. But we have a unique opportunity to quickly change that. At XPRIZE, we believe the solutions to humanity's grand challenges can come from anywhere. We actively seek to include diverse voices throughout our ecosystem. Last month, we went to the "Women in Green Forum," the premier conference series highlighting women's impact on the environment. We led an interactive workshop for conference participants on disruptive technologies, guiding attendees through a woman-centered design activity to solve environmental challenges.

The author with conference attendees. Photo credit: Leia Marasovich

The author with conference attendees. Photo credit: Leia Marasovich

When we launched the Global Learning XPRIZE, a competition to address the issue of 250 million children worldwide who lack basic education, we made it a priority to focus on and include women.  We made sure that we had gender balance in our advisors and judges, that our field test would include an equal number of girls and boys testing the technology, and we are creating a research project to measure the impact of technology on the lives of girls.

The "Moon Shot" web series about the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, backed by Executive Producer J.J. Abrams, focuses on the stories behind the teams creating new space technologies. The segment on Team Indus features team member Deepana Gandhi, a young woman from rural India who loves math and space (warning: this 7 minute episode is likely to leave you teary and inspired!). She talks about how few opportunities there still are for girls, and how just seeing news footage of one Indian woman astronaut broke open the boundaries of what was possible for her and gave her the motivation to overcome the obstacles to her education.  

It is up to us to listen to the voices of women and girls from around the world, to design for their lives and needs, and most importantly to invite them to be part of the process of creating new solutions for the biggest challenges we face. Doing so just might save the world.

Emily Musil Church, Ph.D, is Director of Education & Impact at XPRIZE.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, or, officially, "Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development"). The SDGs represent an historic agreement -- a wide-ranging roadmap to sustainability covering 17 goals and 169 targets -- but stakeholders must also be held accountable for their commitments.
To see all the posts in the series, visit here.

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