The Digital Conversationalist

It’s International Women’s Day, and it Matters for Men and Women

I can’t tell you how much it frustrates me that we need to have an International Women’s Day. I mean, us womenfolk are 51 percent of the global population, so why do we need to recognise and celebrate the majority of humanity?

Because we do.

Because we are out of balance.

Because the Yin and the Yang are not in alignment.

Because we are not in alignment as a species, so the world can’t be in alignment. Right?

The good news is, during the last 12 months, there has been amazing research that highlights how true equality will lift the world up both economically and socially.

Going through some of the pieces that have grabbed my attention from a business perspective, here’s a selection:

First, an article in The Economist entitled, “The power of parity ­­­­­– the world would be a much richer place if more women had paying jobs.”

#InternationalwomensdayTake a look at the numbers. This is not just something nice, it’s real tangible benefits, the sort of benefits that lift countries out of poverty:

  • Countries could boost GDP by 5-20% if women’s participation in the workforce was on a par with men’s
  • Even in the rich world where women are half the workforce – “they tend to work fewer hours than men and in jobs with lower productivity, not to mention lower pay as a result of pure discrimination”
  • “If the gender gaps in participation, hours worked and productivity were all bridged, the world economy would be $28.4 trillion (or 26%) richer,” according to McKinsey
  • India – as a country – could be 60% richer with gender parity – yes, 60%!
  • Closing gender gaps would [could] add $12 trillion to global output by 2025

Another good article – from McKinsey – is “A CEO’s guide to gender equality.” Focused on leaders in business, although it does feature the same research as The Economist article above.

As it says, equality isn’t the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

If you read this Accenture Report, “Getting to equal” you’ll see the biggest opportunity is digital fluency. It goes back to education, because #educationmatters

I love this blog from EY’s Mark Weinberger.

“It’s almost economic malpractice not to create a culture and talent pipeline that can meaningfully increase executive gender parity. Indeed, it’s hard to think of any other initiative with so much potential that business leaders would not pursue.”

And yet, here we still are.

If you’re interested in some really keen insights today, I would definitely recommend following the World Economic Forum, it’s an amazing content resource all year round.

But today, here are two pieces that caught my eye.

This little goldmine of articles is worth investigating, “Agenda in Focus: Women and Work.”

And I appreciatedWhere are the women in corporate leadership?” Written by Uschi Schreiber, Global Vice Chair, EY – a female leader in business who sees a lack of women in leadership every day. “The evidence is clear from the EY-Peterson research that when companies have over 30% of women in leadership, they can expect a 6% increase in net profit.”

So today, as women all over the world go off to attend International Women Day events – as I have done throughout my career – I just want to ask one thing: where are the men?

As Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, so eloquently discussed, when she launched #HeforShe in 2014, this is not a women’s issue. It’s a humankind issue and we need men attending these events as much as we need women, especially as the majority of business leaders today are men. It goes without saying that men must be involved deeply in the change this world needs right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I am feeling really optimistic about our ability to change, but I’m hoping it doesn’t take 117 years to get to true parity. However, to do it, we need to do it together.

A Message to the Men

To the men I am privileged to know: this is not your fault. We’ve come so far, but I want to ask you a favour? Please can you get on board – as a leader, as a businessman, a husband, son, father, human?

Can you take the #PledgeforParity? Can you commit to learning more about the issues? Can you be honest and self-reflective about your own unconscious bias? We all have them. Are yours stopping women around you progressing?

For the women in your life (at home and at work) – can you do more for them? For example, I have many men in my life with daughters and I know every single one of them is proud of their girls and wants the best for them. I presume you do too, or you would not be reading this.

So what can you do today to make a change that will benefit your girls – and all girls – in the future? What about your wife? Are you supporting her ambitions? Are you behind her? Are you doing your share at home to give her the space to fly however high she wants to fly? (Which goes both ways right?)

And of course sons. I am raising two boys and one thing my boys will get from me is the belief that we are all equal, and that both boys and girls can achieve anything they set their hearts on. I work hard to raise my boys to be neutral about gender stereotypes, but of course, it’s a massive challenge. At eight and nine, they already define the world into boys and girls stuff, because the world defines childhood into boys and girls.

Girls are excellent at school, boys are naughty.

Girls like pink, boys like blue.

“That’s a girl’s toy ewwwwwwww!”

That is my life. But I believe how I live my life and represent the female half is what will impact them the most. How my husband respects me equally so. I really believe that to raise fabulous sons, I must be the example they will seek to honour in their future. A strong, feisty woman as a future wife? I’m presuming they’ll want nothing less! (I’m also presuming they’re not gay, because I don’t believe they are. I wouldn’t mind if they were. Each to their own.)

Us women have a job to do too – with both our boys and our girls – but we can’t do it separately to the men-folk. We need to speak the right language to our children. We must address the imbalance in business today. We need to support charities (like Kiva) who are helping on the front line, really making a difference with microloans across the developing world. There are other great charities, but I love these guys. Do me a favour and make a donation to Kiva today?

You know one of the experiences that breaks my heart the most? When I meet women from societies who are not allowed to pursue any ambition at all. I know I am fortunate, especially when I consider all of the yearning women sitting in countries around the world, who have to stifle their inner light because the society they are born into says you are female, you cannot do that.

We need to stop women yearning. We need to open the doors to let them flourish. We need to set half of the world free. It is long overdue and it is time.

And as I have shared earlier: we have the stats to prove both businesses and countries are better off financially if we have equality. If that is the proof we need to make changes, so be it.

I personally don’t really care about cost benefit. I want every person in this world to achieve whatever amazing potential they have, because if we just enabled that, we would lift the world in ways that are immeasurable.

To all the men and women of the world, let’s get on board together and make equality a reality. Not in 117 years, but right now. For all of us. For our world. For peace. For prosperity. For our future.

I believe we are constantly distracted from the real issues that will make the most difference. This, for me, is one of the core issues we must address now. This is not a women’s issue. It is an issue for all of humankind. Are you with me?

Let me know?



If you like this, I’d love a comment, a discussion or a commitment you’ll #PledgeforParity. Of course, please also feel free to share with your communities. That’s what this is all about today – sharing and giving to each other. If you like my style and what I talk about, feel free to follow me on LinkedInTwitter or on Facebook. Thanks for reading.

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