By Philippa White, Founder & CEO of The International Exchange (TIE), a comfort zone disruptor. Passionate about growth and development, she has created a unique programme that exposes people to global challenges to ignite their humanity, ingenuity, and purpose.
We work in many of the worlds’ least developed countries and the importance of giving autonomy and financial independence to women in those countries cannot be overstated – either for the women themselves or for their countries.
One example of this comes from Malawi, often known as the Warm Heart of Africa. It is also one of the poorest countries in the world. And to add to the challenges that the country faces, the pandemic has pushed the children’s and human rights movements back by at least 30 years.
Schools being closed has meant that young people have been at home, or on the streets, and as a result, so vulnerable. Abuse of all kinds increased exponentially because of the pandemic.
It is also common knowledge that in Malawi the gap between the rich and the poor
is big. As if this is not enough, access to education favours the few rich families, thereby making life for the poor families harder and more vulnerable than it would otherwise be.
It is this vulnerability that is now leading to the increase in the number of girls being trafficked, sexually abused or exploited and indeed most of them end up as teen mothers. On top of this, every day girls face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms, poor infrastructure, violence, and fragility.
But better educated women tend to be more informed about nutrition and healthcare, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and their children are usually healthier, should they choose to become mothers. They are also more likely to participate in the formal labour maker and earn higher incomes.
All of these factors combined can help lift households, communities and countries out of poverty. This is why one of our recent professional development programmes was so powerful.
It was rooted in female entrepreneurship.
We are comfort zone disruptors. We get companies ahead of the curve by developing the leadership skills of their people by taking them out of predictable silos and exposing them to global challenges that will ignite their humanity, ingenuity, and purpose.
At the end of 2021 a small team of professionals from London, Canada and Switzerland from the areas of finance, operations and business came together virtually to broaden their horizons and push themselves in new ways by working with a Malawi human rights organisation called Chance for Change.
The team helped create a structure and programme for young women to learn entrepreneurial skills, allowing them to become more independent – thereby removing themselves and their young children from terrible living conditions. And providing them with a chance for change.
What was fascinating were the insights collected during this programme.
I remember one of our meetings where the team reflected on a conversation that they had with a handful of local adolescent girls, to talk about the types of entrepreneurial activities they could engage with.
The team of professionals started the meeting thinking they needed to kick off with examples. They suggested the selling of baked goods.
The girls very kindly listened. And responded by saying that many of them were still breastfeeding their young infants, and culturally, no one would buy food made by someone who is breastfeeding. And that wasn’t really what they planned to do anyway.
What was needed was a mechanic for bikes and mopeds. They knew how to fix stuff. And there was such a distrust of men running through the society, they wanted to fill that gap and provide a trusted and authentic service – operated by women only.
They knew what they wanted to do, they just needed help figuring out the structure, the start-up capital, and how to make it happen.
The professionals were blown away.
They not only learned the power of asking questions first and not assuming anything, but also just how powerful female entrepreneurship is. In so many respects.
Following these meetings, and immersing themselves further, the team created some powerful solutions to help make all of the objectives come to fruition.
They created a Student Manual for girls to use throughout the entrepreneurship programme; funding opportunities for the girls that included a business start-up loan facility, education loan facility and scholarship funding, all addressing a gap in funding for both the launch of a business by girls and also the financial barrier of education for girls; a community scholarship programme to provide access to education for youths who demonstrated empathy and leadership; and a mentorship development programme.
Implementation of these has already started.
Achieving gender equality will make the world a healthier, happier place and is crucial to making lasting environmental progress. Gender bias is exacerbated by the lack of financial power held by women in poorer countries, but these women don’t lack the desire and creativity to become successful entrepreneurs, they just need support and encouragement to turn their ideas into reality.
Finding ways that help women and girls living in challenging socioeconomic conditions be better educated, build skills, start small businesses, and secure fair wages and ethical work, will not only impact them, but their communities.
When women have the power to make their own money and have control over how they use it, this not only empowers them economically, but is also one of the best ways to help reduce global poverty.
Philippa White, Founder & CEO of TIE
Philippa is the Founder and CEO of The International Exchange (TIE), a comfort zone disruptor. Passionate about growth and development, she has created a unique programme that exposes people to global challenges to ignite their humanity, ingenuity, and purpose.
She believes that to profoundly change the world, we need to connect with our emerging self. In her mind, where we were is different to where we are going. And everyone has the power to take us to the future – the key is unlocking it.
Born in South Africa and having grown up in Canada, Philippa has always prized her position as a global citizen. Following an exchange programme in Thailand, she moved to the United Kingdom, where she worked in advertising.
In 2005, after deciding that those in the private sector were often unable to access their fullest potential when it came to being both successful members of their field and constructive members of their global community, Philippa moved to Brazil and launched TIE. TIE aims to unleash the power of leaders through self-discovery and experiential learning in ways that also positively impacts communities around the world.
TIE works with some of the world’s biggest companies from the communications and financial sectors, such as Santander, Leo Burnett, and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, helping their people develop the vital competencies, innovative thinking, and confidence necessary to drive their companies into the future. As each year passes, customers and employees alike become more worried about the purpose of the corporation and TIE is supporting companies and their leaders as they learn how to reach the societal and environmental demands of our age.
In direct response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 around the world in 2020, TIE went virtual, and increased its transformative force by expanding the base of its participants: It created two CPD Accredited six-week online programmes. Team TIE for corporate clients and TIE Accelerator for professionals around the world who don’t need or don’t want to be sponsored by their companies. Both attract seasoned professionals who are keen to do and be more.
Philippa is 44 years old and lives in Brazil with her 7 and 11-year-old daughters. They love to spend weekends hanging out in the Atlantic rainforest with friends or exploring local beaches. She also loves taking her 35kg German Shorthaired Pointer for a run in the countryside and when possible, whenever he’s not sailing across the world, spending time with her partner at his small shipyard as he finishes creating his new class of sailing vessel.