So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s hard not to miss all the events, news, and general PR buzz about International Women’s Day that was recognised this month. Countries celebrate it in different ways. This year you would have heard about the Day Without Women in the US and many other western countries around the world such as Australia. It is an official holiday in a number of places including: Afghanistan, Armenia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Mongolia, Montenegro, Russia, Uganda, Vietnam. Zambia and in China & Nepal for women only. Many brands such as Nike and P&G launch powerful ad campaigns, while companies around the world ranging from huge multinationals host an array of events, women’s breakfasts and conferences in recognition of the day.
If we move past all the marketing spin, is International Women’s Day still even important? Why do we still celebrate it? Is there an international men’s day? And, looking in to the future, what are the 6 things that we should be focussing on when it comes to gender equality.
Let’s go back to the start for a minute or two.
Let’s start with Men’s Day - Is there an International Men's Day?
Yes, it takes place on November 19 each year and is celebrated in 60 countries around the world.
The objectives of the day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models.
The Telegraph did a great short piece about this which I’ll link to in the show notes (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/international-womens-day-2017-did-start-important/)
Basically, International Women’s Day (or IWD as it’s commonly referred to) is “a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements – from the political to the social – while calling for gender equality.
It has been observed since the early 1900s and is now recognised each year on March 8. Is is not affiliated with any one group, but brings together governments, women's organisations, corporations and charities.”
I think the best way to answer this question is to give you a few facts about the current situation of women in the world.
So, gender equality goes hand in hand with climate solutions and that makes movements like 1 Million Women are super important and extremely relevant right now.
They are a movement of 600,000+ women and girls (and growing everyday) who are pioneers in the gender and climate change arena in Australia and around the world.
Climate solutions have to move past world leaders arguing about the proven science and for everyone to take control. Yes, the reality is that we need strong leadership and big decisions to be made now. And this can only happen when we all make it a priority so organisations like 1 Million Women aim for all of us all to be living a low-carbon lifestyle by inspiring 1 million women to take practical action on climate change in their everyday lives to cut carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse pollutant leading to climate change.
According to them, if 1 million women all cut 1 tonne each of carbon pollution, it would equal to 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent of growing a new forest of 5 million trees. They provide resources to guide you through ways to live a low-carbon life and cut C02 in the process, and ask you to kick-start your low-carbon life by making a personal goal to cut a minimum of 1 tonne of CO2 pollution from your daily life within a year.
It's an easy way to educated start taking action so I suggest you check them out at http://www.1millionwomen.com.au as a first step.
“Climate change responses cannot be effective unless they are gender aware, taking into consideration the different needs of women and men, the inequalities that compound the impacts of climate change for women and the specific knowledge women and men can contribute to solutions” (1 Million Women)
If you want some further reading about climate solutions, Project Drawdown will be available from the 18th April which maps, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. For each solution, they describe its history, the carbon impact it provides, the relative cost and savings, the path to adoption, and how it works. The goal of the research that informs Drawdown is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. All solutions modeled are already in place, well understood, analyzed based on peer-reviewed science, and are expanding around the world. So if you had any doubt about the solutions to climate change being available, this is proof that we already have everything that we need to make a difference.
So to recognise International Women’s Day, I decided to make 2 loans to women micro-entrepreneurs in the Philippines through Kiva. And wow – what an impact Kiva made that day! They had a goal to lend $3 million USD to women on Kiva in one week, and not only exceeded it, but DOUBLED it! It was the biggest day for lending in Kiva’s 11 year history and as a result 16,473 women around the world are one step closer to following their dreams of starting or growing a business, going to school and investing in a better future for themselves, their children and their communities.
And that’s why when I met Pocket Sun, co-founder of SOGAL Ventures, I knew she was on to something big. As the first female-led millennial venture capital firm, according to them, they are redefining the next generation of diverse founders and funders. Although female-led, they don’t just invest in women entrepreneurs, but changing the status quo and adding diversity to the mix is powerful. As Pocket puts it: “SoGal is all about changing the power dynamics in business and entrepreneurship. This power dynamic is not going to change unless women are sitting on the other side of the table and signing cheques.”
That’s why when companies take this seriously, they can create huge impact.
In April 2015, Salesforce Founder and CEO, Marc Benioff announced that the company would be taking a look at equal pay within their business. On International Women’s Day 2016 they announced their results. Their assessment showed that they needed to adjust some salaries—for both men and women. Approximately six percent of employees required a salary adjustment, and roughly the same number of women and men were impacted. Salesforce spent nearly $3 million dollars to eliminate statistically significant differences in pay.
Salesforce also increased access to advancement opportunities through their High-Potential Leadership Program, which is designed to provide leadership skills to advance women in the workplace. The program has led to a 33 percent increase in the number of women who were promoted last year.
In the last year, Salesforce increased parental leave to 12 weeks off at 80% of total pay. The company also introduced a new gradual return program which offers new parents the flexibility to work reduced hours for the first four consecutive weeks of returning to work, at full pay.
The gender pay gap is widely discussed amongst businesses. But how many actually stop, acknowledge there might be an issue and then go on to audit their entire workforce? In the case of Salesforce, this was 17,000 strong. And, in the case of Salesforce, it’s men that benefitted from this exercise too.
But, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Every additional year of primary school increases girls' eventual wages by 10-20 percent. It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence. (UN Women)
What does this all mean?
Apart from the fact that violence of any kind is horrific, it results in a HUGE economic cost to society.
According to the OECD estimates suggest that “discriminatory social institutions – including violence against women – cost the global economy approximately 12 trillion US dollars a year. So while it is critical to put in place laws, budgets and plans to transform discriminatory social norms, we also need to empower women and girls, men and boys, to challenge – and change – these norms”.
The Secretary General of the OECD adds that “across the 160 countries included in SIGI ( Social Institutions and Gender Index), one in three women agrees that domestic violence is justified; in some countries, these acceptance rates climb close to 90%. How can we even begin to tackle violence if women believe it can be justified”
First responders are vitally important in dealing with the consequences of violence against women, but ultimately empowering women through education, increased leadership and economic opportunities, as well as access to finance are key in changing societal norms.
One of the guests in an upcoming episode on the podcast said to me that we can end violence in one generation - we only need one generation to grow up without any violence to change this. That will forever stay with me.
Gender differences in laws affect both developing and developed economies, and women in all regions. According to UN Women (http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures) “90 per cent of 143 economies studied have at least one legal difference restricting women’s economic opportunities. Of those, 79 economies have laws that restrict the types of jobs that women can do. And husbands can object to their wives working and prevent them from accepting jobs in 15 economies”.
The fact is, the more women that are represented in leadership positions around the world, the fast gender equality will become a reality.
If you’re happy waiting for almost another 170 years, then don’t bother doing anything more than you’re already doing. But if you see the economic, social, environmental and political reasons why closing this gap is important, then you need to start doing something about it now. You can start with education. Educate yourself more about this issue and talk to others about it too. In your circle of influence you can choose any one of the above areas that I’ve chosen to highlight and do something about it. Whether it’s joining the 1 million women pledge, funding micro-entrepreneurs around the world, working in your business to promote diversity or, speaking up when the societal norms that permeate a culture of violence against women rears it’s ugly head.
If you like what you’re hearing with this podcast, I'd love it if you could let me know what you think by subscribing, rating & reviewing the episodes. We all know that awareness is the first step to creating change so, don’t forget to share your favourite episode with your friends too!
One more thing, if you'd like to stay in touch, check out the Doing Good Podcast on social media - I'd love to interact with you and hear your thoughts and ideas. Happy International Women’s Day!