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Women Bisnow
March 4, 2008

The Megaphone Effect

This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

Geeta Gupta, the India-born President of the International Center for Research on Women, has been working for gender equity since she began her career. "I'm a third generation working woman," says Gupta, who developed the first women's studies curriculum for university students in India, through a Ford Foundation grant. "My mother was a physician and my grandmother was the principal of a school she founded—having a career was the norm, not the exception."


When she became President of ICRW in 1997, Gupta decided the non-profit should have experts on staff to influence government and partner with large corporations. ICRW's growth has been around 25% a year.


Gupta moved to the US when her husband was assigned to lead the Export-Import Bank of India in Washington. "I was pregnant and we were supposed to stay for two years. I had no work visa so there was no conflict about staying home. When his assignment was extended to a third year, I started getting restless. Everyone I spoke to about women and economic development talked about ICRW."

Gupta started at the non-profit in 1988, but when she became a project manager her husband was called back to India. "My husband asked the Bank of India for a sabbatical to do an MBA and they said 'No, you have to come back immediately.' He resigned on the spot because of my job. We weren't fleeing our land. I felt like I could have a large impact on women here and my husband felt the same way." Through ICRW, Gupta is helping to change how the US spends foreign assistance on women in Third World countries.


The ICRW team taking a break from gala preparations. Their annual International Women's Day celebration is tomorrow evening at Union Station.


ICRW promotes a world free of poverty by demonstrating that addressing gender issues is necessary for lasting social and economic change. "We aren't just a think tank, we actually go into the field and partner with women on the ground. We have the megaphone effect, making sure those in power hear what these women have to say," says Gupta. The ICRW has used its voice to push for two recently introduced bills:  Rep. Betty McCollum and Senator Dick Durban's legislation to curb child marriage and Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar's International Violence Against Women Act.

HIV/AIDS is another focus for Gupta and ICRW, which is part of a global initiative called aids2031. "The purpose is for experts to see what we could be doing now for the future, how we can learn from our mistakes and have no AIDS-related deaths in 2031." ICRW has shown that a woman's social and economic status affects her risk of HIV. "They have no leverage to argue for protection and can't influence how money is spent for them or their children. Yet poor women are agents of change for their families and communities," says Gupta. "Women cannot do this alone. I believe power is not a finite concept. If a woman has power, that translates into power for the man and family—it benefits everyone."

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