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Women in Business Q&A: Professor Linda Scott, DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Oxford, Said Business School

05/25/2015 11:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2016

Professor Linda Scott is DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Oxford's Said Business School. Chosen as one of the top 25 World Thinkers of 2015 by the UK's Prospect magazine, Scott originated the concept of "The Double X Economy" to encompass the full range of women's impact as economic participants. Professor Scott works with multinational companies, NGOs, and governments on programs designed to help women economically. She also curates Power Shift: The Oxford Forum for Women in the World Economy, an annual symposium that brings institutions and individuals working on women's empowerment together to share learning and form collaborations. In a recent appearance at the United Nations, Scott presented a global petition to get women's financial inclusion on the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals and called for a more thorough accounting of the costs of excluding women from full participation in the world economy. Professor Scott's vision of the women's economy was featured on the Financial Times' "Thinking Big" video series and her work has been covered by The Economist, BBC, The New York Times, the Guardian, and other world press vehicles. A Tribeca Disruptive Innovations Fellow, Scott maintains a blog and website called "The Double X Economy," which is syndicated by other women's interest sites. She also blogs for the World Economic Forum, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Forbes.

Tell us about your work on gender inequality and the Double X economy.
I began this work with a question: can the market be harnessed to work on behalf of women's freedom? It was a radical question even ten years ago because the conventional wisdom in the US and the UK was that the market was unavoidably anti-female. People believed--and many still do--that only the government should concern itself with this issue. But my historical research showed that the modern market had been an essential factor in the progress women have made in those countries. So, I wanted to see whether the same thing could happen if we intentionally put the market to work for women in other places. For the past ten years, I have been managing innovative studies around the world to see whether that can be done. The answer is: it can.

How can we collectively work together to advance women's economic empowerment?
Women's exclusion from economic participation is enforced by the practices of all the main social institutions--the schools, the governments, the companies, the churches. We must work collectively to give women economic autonomy because there is no other way to dissolve the overlapping constraints that have held them down. The idea that this kind of change can only come from government is dangerously inadequate. True justice involves weaving the social fabric into a different pattern--everyone must participate.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Very poorly. I am always working, it seems. Travel and time zones are a particular problem. However, I do indulge in a massage once a week and I now have a personal yoga instructor, mostly because I became too stiff from sitting at a desk to keep up in a yoga class.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The belief that women are meant to stay at home lies beneath the surface of many inequities for women in the workplace. Even when a woman has already had her children, or never intends to have any, this persistent prejudice that says women belong at home stands in the way of equal opportunity, compensation, and advancement. Recent research from several studies have documented that this antique mentality still inhabits the hearts of most managers and they make decisions accordingly.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal lives?
Women very often do not have mentoring in the workplace. So, they usually have to figure it on their own. People who challenge society's basic assumptions in the work they do also have to find their path alone. So, for both these reasons, I haven't had many mentors. However, I have many "fellow travellers" in the work I do now. Behind the scenes, we are all helping each other.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
This will sound cliché, perhaps, but I really admire Hillary Clinton these days. In the world where I work, she is already taking a stand on behalf of the world's women. If she becomes President of the United States, she will not only be the first woman to be President, she will be the first President to stand for women.

What do you want to personally and professionally accomplish in the next year?
I am clearing my calendar and my mind to finally write a book on The Double X Economy, something I have been trying to do for a couple of years. It's probably good I didn't write it two years ago, as the work I have been doing since then has affected my thinking about women and economics, but it's time to get the words down.