In a recent op-ed, Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, explained why fostering gender equality is the right thing to do. Not just for economic and social progress around the world, but also for business.

When asked, as he often is, why he is a feminist, Muhtar responded: “My answer is two-fold. On the one hand, working to foster gender equality is the right thing to do. As a more practical matter, it is also good for business and for economic and social progress around the world.”

Celebrating female empowerment for International Women’s Day

In honour of International Women's Day on March 8, we’re featuring his keynote interview at the Women’s Forum Global Meeting at Deauville, France in December 2016, during which Muhtar advocated for gender equality.

"I’ve always believed women should have every opportunity to learn, grow and succeed afforded to men. And while women have gained significant ground in recent decades, we still have a long way to go to achieve true gender equality.

Globally, we need to accelerate progress toward women’s equality and economic empowerment. Not only because it is the right thing to do but also because the progress we make—together—will improve the lives of millions of women and their families, communities and nations.

On a practical level, opening up opportunities to women has the power to accelerate growth and enhance the future outlook for individual businesses, nonprofits and public sector organizations.

As a business leader, I know our company can’t reach its full potential unless we recruit, hire, develop and retain women associates as part of a diverse, multicultural workforce.

And you don’t need academic studies to see why. You just need the simple logic that would tell you any organization is setting itself up for failure if it isn’t welcoming the experience and expertise of half the world’s people.

At Coca-Cola, we’ve been on a journey to attract and retain more women employees and leaders. For us, this is particularly important because women make up a disproportionate share of the people who buy our beverages.

We’ve made progress in recent years, but we are not at all satisfied. We know we can do more. And we are working on multiple fronts to do so.

Communities and nations also come out ahead when women have more opportunities.

Over and over, studies have found a direct correlation between women’s empowerment and GDP growth, business growth, environmental sustainability, improved human health, and other positive impacts. And this is no surprise, given that women invest 90 percent of their earnings in their families and communities.

“Communities and nations come out ahead when women have more opportunities.” - Muhtar Kent

Already, women represent the fastest-growing, most dynamic economic force in the world. Women now control more than $20 trillion in global spending. That means women have an economic impact 50 percent larger than that of the United States and more than twice the size of China and India’s economies combined.

In the United States, women-owned businesses now account for nearly $3 trillion of the gross domestic product. In fact, if American women were measured as a separate country, they would represent the fifth-largest economy in the world!

Coca-Cola is working with other businesses and public agencies to help create more opportunities for women entrepreneurs through 5by20, a global initiative to help empower 5 million women businesspeople over the course of this decade.

Why-I-am-a-feminist

Globally, by the end of 2015, we had provided 1.2 million women entrepreneurs with improved access to training, mentorships and business loans. And we will keep scaling up the best approaches on our way to reaching 5 million women worldwide by 2020.

Find out more about Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative

At a personal level, I’ve learned some of the most valuable lessons in my life from my mother, my wife and my daughter as well as female teachers, classmates and coworkers.

I would encourage any men who may think they don’t have a real and abiding stake in women’s empowerment to consider the kind of world they want for their female relatives, friends and colleagues.

Men, don’t we want the women and girls we know and respect to have every opportunity to learn, grow and succeed?

If our answer is yes, we should make our voices heard in advocating for women’s equality and economic empowerment. In other words, we too need to become feminists. This will result in a better world for all of us."

Muhtar Kent is chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company