Gender equality is a human right, not a privilege. Yet even though we live in the 21st century, gender inequality persists to be a problem in all areas of the world. Although the situation is getting increasingly better, for instance in terms of employment, there is still a lot to be done. Some facts are shocking and disturbing:
63 million girls have undergone female genital mutilation. Women make up 2/3 of the illiterate population. Every 5 minutes one girl dies because of violence. Furthermore, according to the UN: „19 percent of women between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey.” To get more information, visit the interactive website or the iconographic spotlight created by UN Women.
Gender equality is crucial in achieving a peaceful and sustainable world and is considered to drive development.
Owing to the fact that gender inequality is a remarkably broad topic, this blog will focus specifically on gender inequality in the business environment.
Better, but still not good enough
This year a milestone was announced by Fortune Magazine – the number of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list is higher than ever. And even though the percentage is not significant (6.4%), it is an improvement. Yet still, women in managerial positions are underrepresented, less than a third of senior- and middle-managers are women. Businesswomen have to deal with stereotypes and prejudice. They are called “bossy” or “aggressive” simply by behaving like their male colleagues. Women face gender wage gaps and they’re less likely to get a promotion. As one can see, the list of issues is long. For women, success and likeability are negatively correlated.
How can we change it?
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, points out things we can do as individuals:
- Sit at the table – women systematically underestimate their abilities, so having a “seat at the table”, believing in oneself and speaking out is crucial.
- Make your partner a real partner – women spend twice as much time on household duties as man, so having a partner that will share them equally matters
- Don’t leave before you leave – do not plan your pregnancy and parental leave too early, don’t let it withdraw you from grasping opportunities.
On top of that, there are many initiatives aiming at empowering and helping women, like She Should Run, Women for Women and many others. WBCSD has recently launched the Leading Women Awards to promote the leadership of women. Hopefully, through joint efforts, the world will be a better place for women.
But is that enough?
Power of role models
What I consider to be equally important in fighting for women empowerment and gender equality in business, as all the things pointed out above, is role modeling. The endless support I’ve received from my parents was invaluable and their own life choices (both founded their own businesses) are what inspired me to undertake a degree in Business studies. Research confirms what I’ve learned from my experiences – role models do indeed play a key role in achieving gender equality.
The overall situation is bad, however, it is improving and we should stay united in fighting for a better future. Maybe one day it will be correct to say that gender inequality is no longer a problem?