Well, Google’s long-delayed Project 10^100 has finally come to the voting stage. And all of the 16 bundles of ideas that have made it to this stage are worthwhile endeavors.
But they’re also a missed opportunity. None of the ideas is about empowering girls and women. In fact, the word “women” is entirely missing from the page that describes the 16 finalists.
Yet, economists have proved again and again that getting girls into education, teaching women about their reproductive rights, financing women’s ventures, and setting up services that allow women to be productive in the workplace is the hidden lever to unlocking growth and prosperity. None of the 16 ideas up there on that page recognizes this. (Sure, many women will benefit if voters choose to fund better technologies to remove landmines, or more education for African students, or early warning systems to prevent mass atrocities – including war rapes. But there is no idea up there that says “let’s spend this money 100% on women”).
My proposal? Together with my friend Raffaele, I had submitted an idea about women’s leadership and role models. It went like this: The 1,000 member companies of the World Economic Forum would commit to having neither gender represented by more than 60% of Directors on their Board. Sure, it would primarily have impacted the West, and not so much of the developing world. But it was a very low-cost idea – all it takes is leadership, commitment and some monitoring systems – and it would have triggered a vast culture change in our business, political and civic organizations. Culture change will come anyway, you say? It doesn’t: we’ve stopped making any measurable progress at all – except for places with forcing devices, such as Norway. It didn’t fly: let me know if you find a better forum to promote it.
In the menatime, how are you voting on Project 10^100?