As it is International’s Women’s Day, we reflect on progress made, reiterate the call for change, and to mark the plight and achievements of women.
With the theme of ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030’, the United Nations is calling on governments and businesses alike to commit themselves to gender equality by 2030.
Some key gender focused targets of the 2030 Agenda:
- By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning).
- By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
- End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
- Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
Using the momentum of the Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 targets require public and private sector leaders and innovators to differentiate themselves, make a change, and take a new approach that is anchored by inclusivity and equality. We can help achieve these goals through empowerment in two directions, one from a top-down approach and the other from the bottom-up.
A Culture Change: At board level
Establishing this ‘new normal’ will require an evolution of corporate culture. According to a ‘Women Matter 2016: Reinventing the workplace to unlock the potential of gender diversity’ report by McKinsey & Company - flexibility and compatibility are the keys to overcoming the traditional barriers that women face in a corporate setting and to unlock the potential of women in business.
Research around the world has shown that board diversity enhances corporate performance, and a failure to recognize its benefits would undermine competitiveness. Yet, if we were to look at Hong Kong for example, only about 10 percent of the board members of listed companies are female, although half of the total workforce are female. To change this requires an environment conducive to breaking ‘glass ceilings’ and providing positive reinforcement so that more women are empowered in the advancement of their careers. This will require making tough changes across the entire organisational system from board to entry level to transition the company’s corporate culture to overcome social or cultural restrictions. Smart companies will use these opportunities to attract and retain the best talent and to see the potential for employee and company growth and performance.
The Value Chain: At farm level
Inequality along many value chains is often deeply rooted and undermines the true potential of women and development. A lack of access to decent work, education, and markets along with occupational segregation, violence, and discrimination cause deconstructive outcomes to both society and business.
For the agricultural value chains for example, women are often referred to as the ‘invisible workforce,’ over-represented in informal, unpaid, part-time and seasonal work. With the support of CSR Asia, leaders such as Oxfam and their Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in Southeast Asia (GRAISEA) programme, work to inspire and incentivize businesses to invest in initiatives that provide fair access and opportunities for women along major agricultural value chains. Advocating to companies to create ‘gender smart solutions,’ to create products and services which enable women to reach their potential.
The business case is sound; women increase the productivity of a company’s labour force and supply chain, improve the quality of products and markets, while strengthening brand reputation and customer loyalty.
Courtesy of the International Finance Corporation (IFC)
Whether it is at the board or farm level, the private sector has the resources and influence to make the changes needed to achieve the UN’s 2030 agenda.
At CSR Asia we call on all companies to drive this change, to focus on empowerment through access to knowledge and equal opportunities. Business as usual can no longer afford the costs and missed socio-economic opportunities of a global workforce that holds back half of its population. Companies unwilling to value progress, innovate, or make ‘gender smart solutions’ will be those choosing an outdated business approach over growth and development.
On International Women’s Day join the #BeBoldForChangecampaign for a more gender inclusive world.