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Martina Navratilova: Gender equality- this makes good sense for businesses

Martina Navratilova calls on businesses to strive for equal pay and diversity. This, says Ms Navratilova, means better financial and social success. Martins is not only a tennis legend, but a campaigner for women’s rights.

Even in countries that are advocates for women’s empowerment still have far to go when it comes to improving the conditions of workplace diversity and wage equality.

Ms Navratilova gave this message at the second BNP Paribas Sustainable Future Forum in Singapore. Facing an audience of over 400 people, she told how in the 1970’s, she learned that male and female tennis players were not paid the same in Grand Slam Tournaments. Ever since the day she discovered this fact, Ms Navratilova has campaigned, and rallied her colleagues in the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) to accept nothing less than equal pay at every Grand Slam.

Despite the ongoing campaign by Ms Navratilova, it was not until 2007, three decades later, that Wimbledon joined the other three major tournaments to award equal pay to winners. The US was the first to start the ball rolling in 1973, followed by the Australian Open in 2001, and the French Open in 2006.

Ms Navratilova went on to say that while tennis may have closed the pay gap, society still has a huge problem with gender equality in pay. While Singapore has made great progress in narrowing the gap, men still on average earn 18% more than women, while performing the same tasks.

While this figure may not at first glance be very big, in the big picture it means that a woman must work an extra five years to make the same amount of money as a man.

Another example of gender pay inequality was found in the UK BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) where of those earning over £150,000 a year, over 60% were men.

For the issue to start to be addresses, Ms Navratilova called on companies to take a lead in advocating equal pay. Diversity in businesses will not only lead to better financial results, but vastly improve social impacts.

Ms Navratilova quoted a study from the McKinsey Global Institute in 2015. It was shown that by achieving equality in women’s pay, companies could add as much as US$12 trillion to the global economy. Consulting firm Catalyst showed that when women hold executive positions, there is a 34% higher return for shareholders compared to when they do not hold that position. When gender diversity comes into the workplace, it translates into a revenue increase of over 40%.

The results of the studies show that gender equality is more than lip service to make a company look good. It also makes perfect business sense. Economic, psychological, and academic research all show that diversity makes for better decision making.

A final point that Ms Navratilova made was that customers look for businesses who have a workforce which represents all of them, not just a select few. Women make up 50% of the potential global workforce, which indicates that businesses should place female workers in the team, to inspire creativity and increase productivity among employees at all levels.


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