07/20/2012 02:44 pm ET | Updated Sep 19, 2012

Girls Rule

The Gender Gap and How Empowering Women Grows Society and GDP

This should not be a difficult argument to make. Let's start by saying that without women, there would be far fewer men (smile).  Without my mother Juanita Smith, I literally would not be here today, and without my mother as a strong, working, capable, self-starting role model in our family, I would not be who I am today, and my sister Mara (Montie) Hoskins would arguably not be the success story in life that she is today either. Our mother was everything to us.  She "did" everything, too -- from dedicated homemaker to working professional, to sideline entrepreneur and handicraft maker, to my own dedicated school booster, suit-maker (mine) and inspirer-in-chief for the household.  

I am thinking about my mother and sister, and the impact they had both on my life and all those around them -- and on the local GDP growth that they helped to spike in my neighborhood then, and where they live now -- as I stand here today with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also a friend, at the Gallup Building in Washington, D.C. Thursday morning the State Department and Gallup launched "Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap," with an end goal of providing the evidence-backed data that can be used to empower women around the world, integrating them fully into society.  

It is reasonably well-known that if you give women and girls just two years of primary-school education in villages in Africa, you lift the entire village out of poverty. But let's think about women in the Middle East, for instance. Imagine what would happen if we unleashed the true potential of the average of 50 percent of the populations that are women. The economy would just take off. GDP growth would spike, and society would be more well-rounded.

During the conference, the stats and facts behind the Gallup-HOPE Index 2011 Report were cited with respect to the empowerment potential of women and girls. Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, noted that right here in the United States, there are approximately 15 million young people in high school, and about half of them are girls. Seventy-seven percent of all youth say they want to want to be their own boss, 45 percent want to own their own business, and 42 percent believe they will create something that will change the world.  This is incredibly useful data, as they suggest that what fills the gender gap for women most is "a good job," or equality and the opportunity for self-determination that is embedded in that powerful idea.  A good job is what most people want in the world today. When you have a good job, you then can have the human dignity that comes from being able to take care of your family and responsibilities, to put food on the table and a roof over your children's head.  When you have a good job, you also serve as a practical, in-reach and powerful role model for your children, and those around you.  You become a personal, individual driver of localized economic energy and local GDP growth, and when society does this, everyone wins.

Bridging the gender data gap and then empowering women grows society and lifts GDP growth. Bridging the gender data gap and empowering women with silver rights is something that all the world needs, now.

Onward and with HOPE,

John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass) the only African-American bestselling business author in the U.S., and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama.  Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S. He is also a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum.   Mr. Bryant serves on the board of directors of Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation, an NYSE Euronext publicly traded company, and a division of $54 billion Ares Capital.