As a 21 year-old male working on a female empowerment nonprofit, I’ve been asked a lot of questions by my fellow peers. After I explain what Womentum does, that we operate a crowdfunding platform for women entrepreneurs in developing countries, the question is usually along the lines of “What made a guy like you so passionate about this particular cause?” However, sometimes the questions, usually from my fellow males, become much more cynical and borderline sexist in nature. I’ve had many guys ask me: “What is the point of donating and investing funds to women?” and “What’s the benefit of supporting these women? I don’t see what’s in it for the rest of us.” I even had a friend jest that my 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Womentum, discriminates against males, because we only fund female entrepreneurs in developing countries. Another friend joked that he’ll start a competing nonprofit, Mentum, that only funds male entrepreneurs.
While many of my college friends were simply messing with me, these notions are manifestations of the age-old mentality that “nothing matters unless it affects or benefits me.” But contrary to what some male peers (and women as well, you’d be surprised) may think, Womentum is not in the business of doling out handouts to underprivileged women in developing countries.
First off, the women we work with are in the process of working on or establishing their own businesses. The funds we provide them with goes straight into their businesses, not into their pockets as spending money. We work with trusted NGOs who help vet our entrepreneurs in each region and country we operate in to make certain of this. Then we vet these women ourselves, reviewing their budgets and contacting their references, and expect bi-monthly updates on their progress.
For awhile, I failed to properly articulate how our line of work wasn’t blind altruism and effectively rebut those who selfishly question the benefits of supporting these women entrepreneurs. That changed a couple years back when I had the opportunity to hear the Chief Creative Officer of Girl Rising speak at a conference. I left feeling the increasing urgency of women empowerment an important statistic –– according to McKinsey, an additional $2.5 trillion would be added to the Indian economy if gender parity was achieved by 2025. After doing some research of my own, I discovered that achieving gender parity worldwide by 2025 would contribute an estimated $12 trillion to the global annual GDP.
That statistics provided the vindication we needed for what we were doing – encouraging women to leave the household for the workforce through entrepreneurship. It became the perfect rebuttal for doubters and cynicists because it proved that women empowerment is an important social issue that creates meaningful economic value. It changed the entire dialogue around the topic, from one focused on individual gains by one gender to a conversation about mutual benefits. It provided justification for our mission of lifting women out of their status as second class citizen because it benefits not only women, but everyone.
Regardless of where a person stands on women empowerment as a worthy social cause (which I believe to be the pressing issue of our generation) everyone can find some common ground in the fact that we all want better future economic opportunities for ourselves and our family.
So let’s work together and make sure the future is female. Achieving gender parity means a brighter future for us all, regardless of your sex or gender.
About the author
Derek Tu helps run the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Womentum, a pay-it-forward crowdfunding platform for women entrepreneurs in developing countries. Since 2016, Womentum has supported over 35 women from 8 countries, including Uganda and India.