What We Learned from International Women’s Day

According to the World Economic Forum, only 68.1% of gender gaps in the world have been closed. Even the most equal countries in the world have not yet achieved full parity. Covid and associated challenges have added a further challenge, and postponed the attainment of gender equality, on current trajectories, by further generations.

The 2023 GEWAL Summit brought together intergenerational leaders to commemorate International Women’s Day. The formidable group of speakers and guests unpacked the challenges and guided the following interventions to improve the lives of women and girls.

What Individuals Can Do to Enable Gender Equality

  • Cooperate

Women who achieve success, particularly as leaders within their organisations, industries and countries, may shrink their accomplishments in order to maintain gender norms. These gender norms emphasise women’s caring and domestic duties above their career aspirations. Strengthened networks of collaboration and mentorship between women can build their confidence by validating their career capabilities, limiting their fears of imposter syndrome, and offering support to persevere when encountering challenges along the way.

  • Change Perceptions

This action for gender equality acknowledges the internalised barriers that are upheld by women and men. Women leaders are more often faced with a double-bind, balancing expectations of being caring and obliging leaders while also showing that they are able to enforce their authority and deliver results that promote women as leaders more generally. By supporting women in leadership, acknowledging their individual leadership styles and not painting all women with the same brush, we can identify and promote diverse role models while facilitating shifts in our perceptions of what women are capable of.

What the Private Sector Can Do to Enable Gender Equality

  • Equal Pay for Equal Work

It must become a standard for women’s contributions to be compensated equally. Women are more likely to leave careers where organisational practices are not equal, resulting in fewer women with the expertise and experience for executive leadership. Regular assessments of remuneration packages, managing the performance of staff with training, and fair hiring and promotion approaches can ensure equality is maintained. Equal pay for equal work can also extend to gender-balanced considerations in supply chain and procurement practices.

  • Change Corporate Culture

If minority voices aren’t engaging and open to sharing perspectives in the workplace, diversity is not meaningful. Uncovering and resolving bias within individuals, and embedded in organisational culture, requires open enquiry and the intentional collaboration amongst diverse teams. Parental leave and work-life balance strategies can also be applied to men and women to support their equal opportunity for professionalisation, without entrenching stereotypes of women as primary caregivers.

What the Public Sector Can Do to Enable Gender Equality

  • Demystify Technology

This action for gender equality recognises that the digital divide requires more than access to resolve. Where few role models exist, girls may not be encouraged to enter. Investing in women’s education and career paths that are prioritised for future economies, and by highlighting additional creative (non-technical) roles in these industries, diverse talent can be channelled towards enabling economic inclusion. Fear of technology amongst those with limited access can be addressed by countering the negative aspects, such as such as cybercrime, addiction and data-tracking, with informed education.

  • Support the Care Economy

Women’s participation in the care economy limits their participation in education and the formal economy. Investing in the care economy, to improve the quality and affordability of childcare, eldercare, and healthcare services, can enhance women’s contributions in other areas of society. This includes supporting the roll-out of flexible education. Innovation, and support for tech-enabled solutions that meet care economy needs, can be encouraged.

The United Nations has emphasised the urgency of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and pointed to the intricate ways gender equality (SDG 5) supports other SDGs, such as the elimination of poverty. Progressing on gender equality is essential to attaining almost all other SDGs as well.