Isabel B. Franco, PhD, MA, MBA
Watch her TED Talk and learn how the Women Sustainability Academy and eWisely network were born
Growing up in Colombia, a developing country rich in natural resources, I struggled to access quality education, find gainful employment opportunities, and advance my career. At a loss for what to do, I decided to gather up my small savings, pack my bags full of my dreams, and leave Colombia to relocate to Australia. After only a few months in Australia my savings ran out, so I worked all kinds of random jobs to pay for my studies. But in the end, I was not able to make enough money to stay in school. In my desperation, I decided to start knocking on doors, and I was lucky enough to come across angels who were willing to invest in my education. I was awarded a scholarship to work toward a PhD.
Why did I have to struggle so much to access education and gainful employment opportunities when my country was so rich with minerals, metals, and other natural resources? To add to my dismay, I soon found out I was not alone. Through my research I came to understand that many other women in Latin America–particularly those living in developing resource-rich regions––struggle to access education, employment opportunities, and other forms of human capital; and women in other resource-rich regions of Africa and Asia experience the same reality.
My research led me to the conclusion that there is a simple solution to this crisis. Stakeholders in resource-rich regions must invest wisely in five forms of capital: education, employment, entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation. Investment in these areas will show a real commitment to sustainability that will make a huge difference in the lives of women around the globe.
After all my research in Latin America, Africa in Asia Pacific, I began to feel a huge sense of responsibility to these women. I knew I had to do something about this global predicament, and I was acutely aware that research alone was not going to solve the problem. Instead, if I really wanted to create change in the lives of women all around the world, I had to use what I researched, and move from theory to impactful research and practice. And this is how the Women Sustainability Academy was born.
Dr. Isabel B. Franco
Director, Women Sustainability Academy
Global Chairperson, Women Sustainability Forum