Women | Tools | Technology: The Multiplier Effect, An ExxonMobil-Sponsored Series

In the last few years, with the help of its distinguished partners, ExxonMobil has reached out to thousands of women in many developing countries through grants and investments. Their efforts are bringing to life the power of tools and technologies that are enabling women to live and work more productively. This column showcases groundbreaking innovations being implemented in constructive ways that directly address many of the economic challenges women face.

ExxonMobil partnered with Ashoka’s Changemakers and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) last year to advance economic opportunities for women through technology in developing countries. The energy company also funded an ICRW white paper Bridging the Gender Divide: How Technology Can Advance Women Economically that identified which technologies would markedly improve women’s productivity and their ability to generate income and how to effectively bring them to women on the ground. These are advancements that, says ExxonMobil Foundation President Suzanne McCarron, “enable them to be more successful in their local economies, as well as stronger leaders and greater contributors to their families.”

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Out of the study’s findings, the ExxonMobil-supported Women | Tools | Technology: Building Opportunities and Economic Power Challenge was developed with Ashoka’s Changemakers. Delyse Sylvester, Director of Community for Ashoka's Changemakers, a dynamic team of community mobilizers seeking out cutting-edge innovations to solve the world’s most pressing social problems, refers to the Challenge as “a fantastic example of a collaborative competition.” All of the Women | Tools | Technology Challenge entries identified ways to use technology as a means of promoting women’s economic opportunities. The partners joined with experts to identify the most promising entries that excelled in the areas of innovation, social impact, and sustainability.

Says McCarron, “I’ve had the chance to meet with a number of amazing women ExxonMobil is supporting, and I am inspired by their passion. Their stories bring to life some of the results we continue to strive for.” For example, new forms of income through access to agricultural and energy technologies are paying for children’s educations and creating more prosperous communities. “That,” she says, “is the multiplier effect of investing in women.”

ExxonMobil and Ashoka's Changemakers invited the top innovators that entered the challenge to highlight their work at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting. In addition, Changemakers developed a Discovery Framework, drawing what it learned from the Challenge to help innovators better understand the challenges at hand and the opportunities of bringing their concepts to scale.

At CGI last year, ExxonMobil, Ashoka’s Changemakers, ICRW, and Thunderbird Emerging Markets Laboratory pledged to expand the reach of high-impact and sustainable innovations identified through the Challenge. Says Sylvester, “This commitment includes grants and consulting support; supporting the innovators’ connections with other social entrepreneurs, business and technical experts; and the identification of best practices.” Innovators also had a chance to engage with CGI experts.

From training subsistence farmers in Ghana and facilitating solar-lighting in Indonesia to the implementation of dry season drip-irrigation technology in the West African Republic of Benin, the unique innovations that follow illustrate some of the positive results of ongoing ExxonMobil-funded programs and projects that the corporation’s major technology investments continue to foster.