The Grameen Lesson?

When Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus began his micro-lending efforts at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, he had no preference as to whether loans went to men or women. To make a long story very short, male recipients often frittered the money away (alas, drank it away in many instances), while women overwhelmingly devoted their loan proceeds to their business, their family, and their community. As a result, through trial and error, Grameen has ended up with over 90% female recipients. (This is all the more startling given that Bangladesh is a Muslim country.) (And the story has been repeated, pretty much chapter and verse, elsewhere by Grameen and others.) (In the NGO aid-dispensing business, it's a given that getting the local women's network on your side is a 100.00% necessity.)

All this got me thinking about the controversial new healthcare bill. Women pretty much everywhere are the principal decision makers in family affairs. And, among other things, they make upwards of 80% of family healthcare decisions. (Actually about 90%, but I'm being conservative.) Moreover, the old saying goes, as you get older you had better hope that you had a daughter; when it comes to old-parent affairs, "boys" are notoriously, uh, not "girls." (I've observed this numerous times; and I am stepfather to two boys; and I am non-young.)

Oddly, most of the polls on the healthcare legislation were not divided by gender. But the two readings I did get, courtesy Newsweek and Princeton Research Associates, did not surprise me. In short, women were 12% more favorable in one case and 20% more favorable in the other (in the latter, women were +14%, men –6%). Also, alas, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that most of the intemperate public remarks came forth from the mouths of males. (The most memorable women's quote on the House floor, to my mind, went more or less, "With this bill, being a woman will no longer be a 'pre-existing condition.'" Insurers in several states, nine as I recall, tag spousal abuse as a pre-existing condition.)

There is honestly no "bottom line" to this post; but as I have been vociferously championing women's issues (women as underserved market opportunity #1, women in leadership positions in greater numbers to match market power) for about 15 years (pretty much the only "guru" to do so), I simply wanted to see how it played out in healthcare legislation.

(NB: God knows, I'm not claiming that men don't care about their families. I am suggesting that men are less likely, far less likely, to be decision-makers concerning family issues.) (In the Grameen case, it's, of course, a little more extreme than that.)