EXCLUSIVE: Equality For Women Is The Ultimate "High-Yield Investment" - UBS Forum

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 11 December 2013


In the third in a series of articles from the UBS Global Forum on Philanthropy, this publication examines how speakers addressed women's issues and the continuing challenges many women face.

This is the third in a series of articles stemming from the
recent UBS Global Philanthropy Forum in St
Moritz, Switzerland,
at which this publication was the exclusive media partner. To see the previous
two items, click here and here.

They make up 50 per cent of the human population and despite
big strides in recent decades, women around the world face a number of barriers
to a better life, a fact that philanthropists and policymakers must continue to
address, a conference heard recently.

Under the theme of “It’s a Girl!” to celebrate and note
women’s issues, delegates at the UBS Global Philanthropy Forum in St Moritz,
Switzerland, discussed the challenges, progress and problems that women in many
countries continue to face.

And among the key themes of the discussions was that
empowering women through education and greater opportunities is probably the
most important upward step any country can take to boost its economy. One
speaker at the annual event described it as the ultimate “high-yield investment”.

Setting the scene for the two-day conference, Alex Friedman,
global chief investment officer at UBS, talked about “three forces which move
the world” – government, religion and capital. “We are at this unique
inflection point where tendencies over the last 30 to 40 years have led us to
where we are.”

Touching on the first morning session on women’s issues and
problems, Friedman pointed out that there are 250 million adolescent girls in
the world living in poverty; there is a huge pool of potential wealth creation
being lost due to lack of education and other opportunities for such young

More broadly, Friedman talked about how the world economy is
still working its way out of a period of rising leverage. “It is not a world
where there is more money around right now,” he said, explaining why
constrained government budgets and demands have helped drive demand for

In total, the investment management industry has over $100
trillion, so even if a small fraction of that money were to be put to
philanthropic uses or invested in particular ways would have a dramatic effect,
he said.

Kathryn Shih, chief executive officer, UBS Wealth
Management, Asia-Pacific, told the conference: “My position [as a senior female
banking executive] is a very fortunate one and not at all representative of the
region I come from.”

She discussed issues such as selective abortion [at the
expense of baby girls). “Death rates in childbirth are higher in the APAC
region than in any other region of the world apart from sub-Saharan Africa”, she said. “The forced marriage of girls is
another scourge,” she continued.

“Investment in health and education for girls can deliver exponential
benefits,” she told delegates.

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