Yesterday, I was told I was hitting below the belt. I could see some people weren’t comfortable with some of my assertions as I spoke at a conference on Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Important messages are not always easy but they need to be delivered.
I will like to remind us why gender equality is important and what we can all do about it.
Women make up half the world’s population. If you have a vehicle with 4 engines and only two are functioning, your guess is as good as mine on how far you can go.
Women excluded by discriminatory practices, make it difficult for women to fully participate in society, and end up reducing the potential and growth of the global economy as a whole.
Some of these practices are cultural, traditional, systemic and sadistic.
Exclusion begins as girls and happens in different forms. From being denied access to decent reproductive healthcare; being denied access to education; being married off as a child, to being denied access to inheriting land. All these systemic issues act as barriers from girlhood.
In womanhood, they play out as unconscious biases. Women are less likely to be hired than their male counterparts. Recruiters make assumptions about their abilities when single and a different set of assumptions when married. Discriminating against women because they are women. Imagine being discriminated over issues, you can do nothing about.
Women are more likely to be sexually harassed and domestically abused. The greatest form of abuse being financial abuse. This poor start in life for many female children, stays with them for the rest of their lives.
Global reports reveal women in the workplace start off well at entry level, however, their representation dwindles at senior leadership level. They exit the workforce for reasons that they can do nothing about, their womanhood.
A recent Nigerian survey report of a survey of 148 companies only 14 companies had female CEOs and some had no women on their boards or executive teams. Yet women make up half the population of the workforce.
So what can you do about this?
If you know a girl, ensure she stays in school for as long as is optimal for her progress in life. If you have a girl child, give her the same opprtunity and extra as her male counterparts, knowing she’s already in a disadvantaged position. If you are woman, fund and support other women and girls. Speak up, educate and inform others about these biases and offer them a different perspective free from stereotypes. If you are a man, show empathy and respect for women and girls, fund and support their efforts.
If you are an organisation, set a clear goals on diversity and inclusion. Review employee data and engagement levels of protected classes. Understand that as long as there’s discrimination and exclusion, people will never be their authentic selves and where they can’t, you will never benefit from their full potential.
Thank you for playing your part.