As the world came together to celebrate International Women’s Day, the role of women in achieving gender parity and equality is still work in progress.
With this year’s theme, dubbed ‘Each for Equal’, the rallying call was for each of us to create a gender-equal world by deliberately choosing to fight bias, hence broadening the horizons for women to thrive in their respective disciplines and by extension, improve the world we live in.
Despite intentions by leaders, civil society, corporates and even individuals to create and support programmes and structures to achieve gender parity, the World Economic Forum 2020 Global Gender Gap Report shows that globally, only 55 percent of women (aged 15-64) is engaged in the labour market as opposed to 78 percent of men.
Therefore, there is a call for everyone to create structures to attain gender equality in boardrooms, governments, media coverage, workplaces, as well as in the provision of health and education services because collectively, we can each help to create a gender-equal world.
To realise this vision especially at the workplace, workforce strategies must ensure that women are better equipped with improved skills and training to deal with new challenges and seize the opportunities, especially in the digital age.
This way we can then buttress the efforts of women and empower them to be towering beacons of hope in their various environments.
Peace of mind guarantees better productivity. To ensure this, we have a return to work policy that offers women flexible hours when they resume work after maternity leave.
A 2019 report by the McKinsey Global Institute indicated that Africa performs well overall on gender equality at work, with a higher than average labour force participation rate than the rest of the world. Most encouraging was that women have assumed many leadership roles in Africa. Female representation on African boards is 25 percent (compared to the global average of 17 percent), which is the highest share of female representation on company boards. This is commendable but does not capture the lower cadre workforce where women still struggle to secure jobs and grow in their careers.
Investing in human capital and creating equal economic opportunities will be critical to attaining gender equality. Further, supporting skills training, providing access to affordable healthcare and improving access to financial, digital, and legal literacy must be of significant concern. Therefore, corporates must now set clear goals for gender diversity and implement mentorship programmes to achieve equality.
The late Koffi Annan once said, “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”
Building more inclusive societies will be critical in achieving gender equality.
Corporates should champion this cause and instil gender parity and embed it as organisational culture.
The government, corporates and other stakeholders should work together to achieve gender equality to narrow the gender gap.
The writer is Public Affairs and Communications Director at Coca Cola Beverages Africa in Kenya.