You expect a new Keb’ Mo’ album to deliver the goods. For the last 25 years, he’s been releasing high quality blues and roots albums. Oklahoma, even by Mo’s standards is top notch – and surely puts him in line for another Grammy award. Produced by Mo’ and Colin Linden, who plays electric guitar alongside Mo’s resonator on several tracks, the album not only delivers the characteristic laid-back Mo’ sound, but engages with a number of current issues including environmentalism, mental health and immigration.
Mo’ is joined by some formidable musical collaborators, including his wife, Robbie Brooks Moore, Robert Randolph, Taj Mahal, Jaci Velasquez, Rosanne Cash, and Andy Leftwich. All-in-all it’s a wonderfully enjoyable album, seasoned with accomplished musicianship and thought-provoking lyrics.
In 2018, Mo’ produced and performed on Ana Popovic’s I Like It On Top, perhaps her best album, [catch our interview with Ana here] which appealed for equality for women, and now on Oklahoma, he continues to be a spokesperson for the cause with Put A Woman In Charge. It’s a catchy number, enhanced by Rosanne Cash’s vocals, where the efforts of men have left us “standing on the brink of disaster.” That being the case, Mo’ says,
“We’ve got to turn this world around
Call the mothers
Call the daughters
We need the sisters of mercy now.”
It’s time, he says, “to put a woman in charge.”
Now, in case you think this is all some sort of feminist plot, research shows that when more women work, economies grow. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes. Increasing the female employment rates in OECD countries to match that of Sweden, could boost their GDP by over $6 trillion.
A report last year from McKinsey and Company said that women’s economic equality is good for business. Companies greatly benefit from increasing employment and leadership opportunities for women, which is shown to increase organizational effectiveness and growth. It is estimated that companies with three or more women in senior management positions score higher in all dimensions of organizational performance.
Interestingly, a study by global consulting firm Hay Group found that women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies and said that “If more men acted like women in employing their emotional and social competencies, they would be substantially and distinctly more effective in their work.” And then there’s some research by the Pew Research Center saying that 34% of American workers say that women have an edge over men when it comes to being honest and ethical, while just 3% believe men are better.
The positive effects of favouring women become very pronounced when we consider developing countries, where traditionally girls are not well educated, are forced to marry young and are restricted from reaching their potential. Investing in the education of girls has been shown to bring high returns in terms of breaking cycles of poverty and aiding economic growth. Importantly, it also improves children’s and women’s survival rates and health, delays child marriage and early pregnancies, empowers women both in the home and the workplace, and helps tackle climate change. Girls’ education also has a transformative effect on health, which can be passed on through generations. Every additional year of school a girl completes cuts rates of infant mortality – the death of children under one year – dramatically.
These benefits to individuals and communities by educating girls and promoting the equality of women are well documented. Yet still:
- Around the world 130m girls who ought to be in school are prevented from attending
- 15m girls will never get to attend school
- Globally, over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men.
- Of 189 economies assessed in 2018, 104 economies still have laws preventing women from working in specific jobs,
- 59 economies have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace
- In 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working.
And at present, fewer than 20% of the world’s heads of state, prime ministers and government ministers are women. Despite recent improvements in women’s political representation, they still occupy fewer than 25% of national parliamentary seats worldwide.
Here’s what’s happening in a world run by men:
- There are more than 40 wars going on, causing untold misery to millions. (New Humanitarian)
- Some 820m people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. (about one in nine people), with millions of children not getting the nutrition they need. Most of these are in developing countries, where 12.9% of the population is undernourished.
- An inadequate response to climate change has led to rising seas and coastal flooding, disasters due to extreme weather, destruction of marine ecosystems, severe drought, affecting poor people disproportionately and much more.
Excluding women from education, the workplace and government hasn’t done us any favours. So yeah, as Keb’ Mo’ says, maybe it’s time we “put the women in charge.”
[For details of one great organization which is working to empower girls and women in impoverished communities, check out Saphara’s Girls Champions Programme.]