A human right, not a female fight!

SDG #5 – Gender Equality

Dr. Mara Catherine Harvey
Founder & CEO smartwaytostart.com,
Author, International Public Speaker, SDG Advocate.

Let me pique your brain with a riddle before we dive into our today’s global developmental target.

A father is driving his son to an interview for a position at a large stockbroker’s company in the city. Just as they arrive at the company’s parking lot, the son’s phone rings.

He looks at his father who says… ‘Go ahead, answer it’.

The caller is the trading company’s CEO who says… ‘Good luck son, you’ve got this.’

The son ends the call and once again looks at his father who is still next to him in their car.

How is this possible?

This very question was once asked in a room filled with senior executives of all identities and from diverse industries yet, none of them could answer it correctly.

The CEO is the boy’s mother.

How many of you got it right?

Gender Equality Still Needs Fighting For

Most of our cultures are predominantly patriarchies, where men possess superior authority in all social, economic and political affairs. So it is convincing to assume that this is the natural course especially when it is believed that men, on average, are stronger than women. But years of study on humanity proves this perennial tenet is not completely true. There is more and more evidence and theories declaring that the upsurge of male dominance is a result of a set of circumstances rather than some universal operation of nature.

It all started approximately 12000 years ago with the outset of agricultural practices that our ancestors started dedicating specific roles to genders. People began to live in communities and gathered properties that needed to be defended by physical strength and heirs. Women, who are the source of reproduction, were constantly designated to propagate and care for offspring to carry on the hierarchy.

Fast forward to now, there is a giant leap in our modus operandi concerning livelihood, capabilities and mortality. History defining events such as industrialization, world wars and pandemics have contributed to the growing necessity for equal participation and appreciating independent representations. Over the years, the world has seen exceptional growth in gender to opportunity ratio in education and workforce, majorly in developed countries. Yet, the Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) 2021, introduced by the World Economic Forum to measure gender equality on the basis of 4 key factors – Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment – indicates that gender parity cannot be attained for another 135.6 years. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the number has increased by 36.1 years compared to last year’s report (99.5 years in 2020).

Why is it Important?

Besides the fact that it is a fundamental human right for every gender to have equal opportunities, ignoring the gap puts countries at a disadvantage as nearly half of their population’s potential is untapped. Millions of women and girls, on a daily basis, are subject to discrimination and violence as a result of barbaric stereotypes, attitudes and behaviours. Because of the partiality for boys over girls, the rate of female feticides and poor medical care is high in developing countries and due to lack of many options, girls are often forced into underage marriages and human trafficking.

The UN understands the adverse repercussions of gender inequality and included it under its 2030 agenda of 17 sustainable developmental goals. It believes that “Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”

Encouraging SDG# 5 promotes women to have the freedom of making their own reproductive choices and receiving equal pay to men, which in turn guarantees better health care, lifestyle and employment opportunities for themselves and their children. Time and again, studies have revealed that diverse workplaces are the most productive. Ensuring full participation of women in leadership roles and decision-making positions helps dismantle the masculine system that benefits only a particular section of the workforce. It allows to challenge the traditional behaviours and stimulate intellectual decisions critical for modern-day success.

Gender Equality is good for men, too. In organizations where gender equality prevails, men can express themselves freely, demolishing the toxic masculinity and can enjoy extended paternity leaves and family time without discrimination leading to a positive work environment.

Empowering women can unleash positive growth by enabling new business opportunities, significantly activating earning capabilities, bridging the demand-supply voids and ultimately, lifting the country’s GDP. The European Institute of Gender Equality predicts that by 2050 improving gender equality would lead to an increase in EU (GDP) per capita by 6.1% to 9.6%, which amounts to €1.95 to €3.15 trillion.

The Path to Parity

Unlike the SDGs we discussed so far, Gender equality is not a direct consequence of a country’s socio-economic performance but an issue deep-rooted in one’s culture. Even developed countries, that are considered progressive and archetypes, have failed to tear down the stubborn imparity. Did you know women in Switzerland didn’t get to vote until 1971? February 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Swiss women’s suffrage. According to the 2020 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme that measures a country’s progress based on health, knowledge and standard of living, Switzerland ranks second whereas on GGGI, it is slacking on the tenth position.

What makes SDG# 5 different and complex from the rest of the goals is its lineage to generational bias that can be addressed only by driving social change and championing inclusion. Seeing is believing – we need to provide more and more platforms showcasing inspiring and powerful women, for our children to embrace the idea of an equal society. Otherwise, like in our riddle at the beginning, we are limited to thinking in constricted possibilities.

Gender Equality is a subjective goal that cannot be resolved by mere provision of awareness, resources and policies but calls for a humane approach that translates into a deep respect for each other. By upholding equality and inclusivity we can shape a world in which each one of us has a fair chance.

“Children need to go to school, and equal treatment is the rule.”
– from A Smart Way to Start Doing Good

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