International Women's Day
and the Quest for Gender Parity
Today (March 8th) has been celebrated as International Women’s Day
since the early 1900s, a time when rapid expansion and great social turbulence saw enormous population growth and the inception of radical ideologies. It’s a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and to be aware of the challenges still faced by half the global population. It’s a day that marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
There is much to celebrate today: where once women were regarded as second-class citizens, to be traded in marriage and relegated to the kitchen, the modern day sees ladies succeeding in all echelons of life and work. The freedom to decide for herself is one of the key elements which defines the modern woman and sets her apart from her predecessors, and across the globe women are making their mark. In government, commerce, science, engineering and a plethora of other fields, women are rising through the ranks and proving to the world that given the chance, girls can do everything boys can. Beyond what women are doing for themselves, we have seen male-dominated organisations and corporations the world over turn their attentions to removing the barriers to women’s progression and success, and in what seems an ever-growing number of organisations, they are working hard to improve the proportion of female decision-makers.
However, actual progress is slow, and has only slowed further in recent years. Governments, high-level management and corporate boards are still woefully male-dominated, and even today, women are not being paid the same wage for the same work. In 2014, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity
. Only one year later, in 2015, they revised their predictions to estimate that the gender gap would not entirely close until 2133
, a further thirty-eight years away – a third of the way through the 22nd Century, in fact!
Achieving gender parity isn’t just good for the ladies – a study released last month
by the Peterson Institute for International Economics finds that companies with more female executives tend to be more profitable. Sampling 21,980 firms with headquarters in 91 countries, the research is the most extensive of a litany of studies to have found that gender balance in leadership can be great for business.
The researchers found that in companies where at least 30% of their most senior ‘C-suite’ management roles were performed by women, profits rose by about 15% compared to their less equal-minded competitors. This increase in profits is due to the diversified skills that come as part and parcel of a diverse workforce.
Despite this increased earning potential, the study found a dearth of women in upper management worldwide. 60% of the companies studied had no female board members whatsoever. 59% have no female executives, and of the remaining half, 57% have only one female executive. Only 945 companies – less than 5% - have a female CEO.
Thus, this year’s International Women’s Day Theme is ‘Pledging for Parity’
. This means making a pledge to take concrete steps to help achieve equality between the gender more quickly. These steps could include anything from supporting women and girls in achieving their goals and ambitions, calling for and implementing gender-balanced leadership, and respecting and valuing differences, to developing more inclusive and flexible cultures and rooting out workplace bias or pay discrepancies between the sexes. Every one of us can ‘be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity’.
Studies have shown that worldwide, some 70% of all employees worldwide believe there to be no gender pay gap issue. This is despite the fact that women are paid, on average, 9% less than men. In the UK, that figure is 14.2% - this means that technically, women work for free from November 9th until December 31st every year. Across Britain’s top earners, the pay divide is nearly 55%, according to the TUC – this translates to the top 2% of male earners bringing home more than £117,352pa, while the top 2% of female earners receive £75,745.
The Pledge for Parity
Organisations and individuals across the world are making their pledges for parity in many different ways, from promising to ‘help women and girls achieve their ambitions’ and ‘challenge conscious and unconscious bias’ to committing to ‘call for gender balanced leadership’, ‘value women and men’s contributions equally’ and ‘create inclusive, flexible cultures’.
Big names in business, academia and beyond are getting involved by making their pledges for parity, promising to up the ante in the fight against disparity between the sexes.
Find out more:
|Richard Branson (Virgin Corp) makes his #pledgeforparity
||King's College London's VP Professor Evelyn Welch makes her #pledgeforparity
Interested to know where your country ranks for gender parity? Check out the Economist’s ‘glass-ceiling index’
, which ‘aims to reveal where women have the best chances of equal treatment at work’.
Want to learn more about achieving gender parity in your organisation? Take a look at the World Economic Forum's tips for achieving gender parity
And don't forget to make your pledge here.