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Holding up half the sky—and some blogs

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture


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Bloggers write to share unique insights. They may want to simply share knowledge, push an issue forward, establish thought leadership, and in some cases drive business.

Bloggers also create community. For example, this blog platform reaches a subscribed community (25K in number!) interested in infrastructure finance, PPPs, and the use of guarantees to spur private-sector investments—especially in developing countries. With niche topics like this, a blogspace becomes a virtual gathering place where we can exchange war stories, spectacular examples, best practices, trends, and opinions. We can know that others care about the same topics. We can also blog to shape the demographics of discourse and raise specific voices.


Did you know this blog was doing that?

In honor of International Women’s Day, let me note that we’ve been deliberately shaping our blogging calendar for at least two years to increase the amount of women bloggers we host. And for more than a year now, I’m thrilled to report that this blogspace has achieved gender parity.

It’s no surprise that women are still underrepresented in technical fields like infrastructure and finance. And to advance the work in our niche, we also need senior women in government and law among other areas of expertise. It is right to ensure that significant shares of women are among the many people who—for lack of a better way to say it—get the deals done that deliver infrastructure services. Male dominance in any professional field is bad for women and bad for the sector.

For the most part, when managers and researchers discuss diversity’s effect on organizations and professions, they’ve usually been able to show better outcome causality with respect to accuracy, objectivity, analysis, and innovation. When it came to “harder” performance yardsticks (for example, measures of financial performance), researchers have struggled to find a causal relationship.

Importantly, a Harvard study last year looked at the venture capital industry and found, simply put, that homogeneous teams have worse investment outcomes.

So more diversity is better for quality and better for business. Great.

But there’s something else that speaks to the heart of what we’re trying to accomplish with more and better infrastructure services: sustainable development. Certainly, at the World Bank Group we’re not “in” infrastructure and PPPs for their own sake. Our aim is to ensure that reliable, good, affordable services get to everyone so they can drink clean water, get to work, cook their meals safely, and birth their children in full health. Helping direct more resources toward quality infrastructure and getting PPPs right are means to this end. Whether as a reader of this blog you are an academic, businessperson, policymaker—or a development, finance, infrastructure, legal, or engineering professional—I suspect you share these aims.

We know that sustainable infrastructure is developed when, among other considerations, it takes into full account the needs of a broad range of stakeholders. Little can be broader than 50 percent of the population. In this work, there are very specific steps we can take when building or maintaining infrastructure that will help women overcome inequality and insecurity.

Infrastructure development is not always gender neutral. World Bank Senior Director for Gender Caren Grown discussed this in detail last International Women's Day. My colleague Christine Shepherd lays out how the design of infrastructure PPPs in particular can take women into account here. She highlights that women often have different preferences, roles, and responsibilities and as a result they have different needs for services. Also, across legal systems, gender biases exist—including those that govern PPPs; they must be eliminated.

There’s a growing body of scholarship and organizations looking at these issues and I’d like to leave you with a few more:

This is an interesting post about the challenges women face in managing PPPs.

This is the Women’s Infrastructure Network, stalwart pioneers.
Check out what WINDE is doing in South Africa.

Thank you to the current and previous teams who have helped source contributors, maintain this blogspace, and share its vision—Ali, Dave, Lena, Lylia, Nadine, and Sunny. Thank you to management at the Infrastructure Finance, PPPs & Guarantees group that let this blog flourish. Special gratitude goes to Laurence Carter, who encouraged us to shoot for full parity in blogger representation. 

(Shameless plug: Laurence is currently walking 3,500 miles around England and Wales in support of Cancer Research UK and you can follow his progress here.)

If you think you have a viewpoint or story to share with our readers, will you reach out to me via the comments section? We’re always looking for new voices and I’ll be happy to be in touch.

Happy International Women’s Day, all!

 
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