…as the 2020 WEF Gender Gap Report states. The Girls Are Awesome partnerships queen, Thandi Allin Dyani, shares her thoughts about where we are – and where we have to go! – to achieve true gender equality
Image: Gemma Chua Tran / Unsplash
It’s sobering to read that bridging the gender gap will take about 100 years at the rate we are currently operating. Thinking about gender equality and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy is no longer enough; there is a need for accountability and action if we want our organisations – and society – to become more just and equitable. We are a community of organizations that believe this, and are working to achieve that end through strategic collaboration. It’s why Girls Are Awesome and Mercer have joined forces: to create more focus on DEI within the labour market, and help corporations translate their internal strategies into actionable policies that move the needle on gender equality.
But why do we want gender equality? Is it really necessary, considering new research from comparative studies in the Scandinavian countries indicates that the number of people who think that gender equality has ‘gone too far’ is on the rise? (Borchorst & Dahlerup 2020)
Let’s unpack that notion for a minute and look at the facts found in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report. To be clear, the report is about 300 pages long and goes into depth for each country and world region, but there are some overarching trends that are useful to extract, especially when faced with the growing perception that gender equality has more or less been attained, and ongoing (albeit superfluous) talk is sufficient.
First, let’s remember what’s at stake when gender equality is not actively prioritised in workplaces. We know, and data consistently bears out, that when women thrive, our societies thrive as well. If we want to future-proof our organisations, industries, knowledge and overall prosperity, as well as our hope of attaining the 2030 SDGs, bridging that gender gap is a critical – and essential – step.
“Gender parity has a fundamental bearing on whether or not economies and societies thrive. Developing and deploying one-half of the world’s available talent has a huge bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.” WEF 2020: web
Is the problem really that the fight for equality has gone too far, or is it more a resistance progress because some decision-makers are worried about having to give up privilege? And does equality necessarily mean giving up one’s privilege, or actively acknowledging it and leveraging it towards more equitable outcomes where possible?
When we discuss unpaid care work, the labour market, education and economic participation, the stats are pretty clear. Based on the progress we’ve made, equality has not gone too far; it has actually too far left to go:
“Projecting current trends into the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 99.5 years, on average, across the 107 countries covered continuously since the first edition of the report. Lack of progress in closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap leads to an extension of the time it will be needed to close this gap. At the slow speed experienced over the period 2006–2020, it will take 257 years to close this gap. The second area where gender gaps will take longest to close is Political Empowerment. This year’s evolution speeds up the pace of progress towards parity, yet it will still take 94.5 years—even at this faster rate—to close the gender gap. Third, the Educational Attainment gender gap is on track to be closed over the next 12 years, mainly thanks to advancements in some developing countries.” (WEF 2020: 6)
All of this does not mean that one must give up their privilege in order to close the gender gap. We can, however, use our privilege to lighten certain burdens, and keep the spotlight on the importance of gender equality. There is more than enough privilege to go around, and becoming part of the solution is a simple matter of political will – not only on a legislative level, but also within the politics of business, work, families and our personal circles of influence.
That is exactly why we do what we do here at Girls Are Awesome. We don’t have all the answers, and we don’t have copy/paste solutions to the complex, geopolitically- and culturally-specific situations facing women all over the globe. But we’re on this gender equality journey with the tools we have, and we’re committed to using them for progress. That is surely doable for anyone.
Our work is centered around increasing female representation and normalizing a more diverse range of role models within culture, entrepreneurship, art, music, sports and technology, because the “role model effect” has been proven to reap dividends – among women and their allies alike. And partnering with like-minded brands and organizations only increases our reach, and therefore, our potential impact. Maybe this won’t instantly be felt through every layer of the global hierarchy, but it certainly makes a difference. And hopefully, with sustained efforts over time, it just might trickle down and help bring about a culture where women are empowered throughout society.
If you can see it, you can be it! And when women thrive, we all thrive – so do mind the gap.