'Little by little' – not good enough, when it comes to gender equality.

Problems affecting women around the world are becoming clearer. Lack of access to education, health care, security, and economic opportunities are all significant. These problems often last from the classroom to the boardroom. What is less clear is the reward which comes with successful gender equality.

If the world would commit to gender equality, and equal opportunity in the workplace, a staggering $28 trillion would be added to the global gross domestic product by 2025. The U.N. has set out a guide for ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ which could add $12 trillion to the global economy by 2030, in just four sectors, namely health, energy, agriculture and cities. If all the sectors of the economy were to be considered, the growth potential would be very much higher.

The guide states that there is evidence proving that gender equality and empowerment for women and girls, are the key to global prosperity. In fact, without gender equality, we simply cannot achieve these goals.

A good example of this was shown in a recent study of the U.S. House of Representatives. On the subject of environmental protection, women have consistently outvoted men by 70% to 40%. Today, however, women account for less than 20% of congressional seats. This is yet another example of why there are so few women in global leadership positions.

Any organisation that plans to achieve long-term prosperity should therefore focus on making female education and empowerment the priority. For changes to be made across all economic sectors, there need to be as many women in leading positions as there are men.

Studies have shown that the private sector is very well placed to take the lead in these changes, because this sector is capable of mobilising resources and opportunities based on gender equality. This was shown in the Peterson Institute for International Economics 2016 global survey of 22,000 companies. Firms which transitioned from a zero-women leadership situation to having 30% females, resulted a 15% increase in profits.

Even with this resounding evidence, there is still a long way to go, with recent U.N. figures indicating that around the world, women hold less than 30% of senior and management positions. Often women are more restricted in the work they do, with International Labour Organisation data showing that 60% of all women who are employed in Southern Asia and Southern Africa in the agriculture industry are unpaid, or poorly paid.

In middle to high income countries, women are mostly employed in retail, manufacturing, health, and education industries, while they are vastly under-represented in areas such as finance, technology, and energy.

The Sustainable Development Goals suggest that companies need to improve the access for women to quality jobs. The distribution of women across these sectors should be equal, and women encouraged into growth areas that traditionally lack women, such as technology, industry, and energy. This will mean that companies will not only contribute to the global goals, but also improve the profit for companies.

The onus, then, must be on leaders of companies in both the public and private sectors, to accept this challenge. They need to recognise that ‘one step at a time’ is far too slow, and ‘little by little’ is not acceptable now.

The deadline to reach the Sustainable Development Goals is 2030. In the remaining 13 years to reach these goals, companies need greater ambition, courage, and tangible actions. Only when businesses adopt diversity and equality in every sense, will we see that we have created a sustainable, prosperous, and united world.


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