CLAIMING WOMEN’S SPACE IN LEADERSHIP

CLAIMING WOMEN’S SPACE IN LEADERSHIP

ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, UN WOMEN DATA REVEALS THAT WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP IS FAR FROM EQUAL AND UNDER THREAT BY THE PANDEMIC. CURRENT PROJECTIONS SHOW THAT GENDER EQUALITY IN THE HIGHEST POSITIONS OF POWER WILL NOT BE REACHED FOR ANOTHER 130 YEARS. 

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” celebrated the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.

Women’s full and effective participation and leadership in of all areas of life drives progress for everyone. Yet, women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making, as revealed in the UN Secretary-General’s recent report.

Women are also at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, as front-line and health sector workers, as scientists, doctors and caregivers, yet they get paid 11 per cent less globally than their male counterparts.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director said: “We need women’s representation that reflects all women and girls in all their diversity and abilities, and across all cultural, social, economic and political situations. This is the only way we will get real societal change that incorporates women in decisionmaking as equals and benefits us all.”

When women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were led by women. And women, especially young women, are at the forefront of diverse and inclusive movements online and on the streets for social justice, climate change and equality in all parts of the world. 

 

WOMEN IN POWER MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Research shows that when women are in power, overlooked policy issues, such as ending violence against women, childcare services and healthcare get more attention; there is often less government corruption and political parties are more likely to work together. 

For example, in Liberia during her first term as President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf introduced a specialized court to prosecute violence against women. Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, and current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both strengthened family leave provisions and increased funding for early childhood education.

H.E. Ugo Astuto, Ambassador of the European Union to India, highlighted the business advantages to be gained from working with gender diversity, and having more women appointed in the top corporate positions. “Women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table, and make crucial contributions to decisions, policies and laws that will benefit us all. The EU’s current priorities will ensure that 85% of all new actions throughout external relations will contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment by 2025.”

Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, emphasized the private sector’s leading role in complementing government efforts to improve women’s prospects. “Steps like supporting diversity in the workplace by hiring women, paying them the same wages as men for similar jobs, safe transportation and commitment to zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the office, having crèches, day care facilities at the workplace are simple yet effective ways to mainstream more women in the economy and also to retain good talent.”

When women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were led by women. And women, especially young women, are at the forefront of diverse and inclusive movements online and on the streets for social justice, climate change and equality in all parts of the world. 

 

BUSINESSES AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Even with a record-breaking new high of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in 2020, only 7.4 per cent of companies on the list are run by women, and women are less likely to be entrepreneurs and face more disadvantages starting businesses. Women also face intersecting and multiple forms of discriminatory practices at the workplace that keep them from advancing in their careers and claiming leadership positions, such as sexual harassment, the gender wage gap and lack of family-friendly policies.

Five ways for more women to claim leadership positions in the world of work:

  1. Demand equal pay for work of equal value.
  2. Call for parental leave policies that support parents of all genders.
  3. Demand zero-tolerance policies for workplace sexual harassment and violence.
  4. Share domestic and care-work at home equally.
  5. Demand equal representation of women in boardrooms.

 

Shirley Chisholm, the first Black US Congresswoman once said: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair”.

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