The International Women’s Day website says that balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. That collective action and shared responsibility for driving a gender-balanced world is key. International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women - while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance.
Movements like #IWD matter because what held true in 1969 holds true today, that the stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says 'it’s a girl’. (Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm). And it is this stereotyping which holds back not only women and men, but it also holds back our economies. The economies in which we want to see growth, year in, year out.
We live in a system which needs to hear the business case for everything. And even though I disagree with this starting point when it comes to matters of social conscience and equality I will toe the line today because these messages need to be heard.
- 65 countries lose $92bn in annual GDP by investing less in girls’ education than boys. (Yann Borgstedt, The Womanity Foundation)
- Globally women work two-thirds of all working hours, but get 10% of the income (Yann Borgstedt, The Womanity Foundation)
- The 2015 McKinsey Power of Parity Report says that in the full scenario of gender equality being achieved globally, $28trillion, or 26% would be added to global annual GDP by 2025. The report links gender equality in society to gender equality at work, acknowledging that one is not possible without the other.
Here’s an example of how social inequality can cause economic problems.
China’s Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s created opportunities for women in growing industries and the government specifically supported women in setting up SMEs. The even earlier Land Reform Act of 1950 enabled peasant workers to own their own land – this included women. Much of China’s growth in the last few decades was built on the woman-friendly foundations of these actions.
Then came the one-child policy – the population was growing at a worryingly high rate. And from here came the stark realisation that despite the gender-equal policies of a few decades earlier, the higher social capital attached to having a boy over a girl had not changed. Attitudes remained as they had always been and new-born girls were abandoned to die or be adopted.
Whilst the Chinese economy continues to grow at the moment, it faces uncertainty ahead. There are 50 million fewer women than there would have been if it weren’t for the one-child policy and the social inequality which led to boys being favoured over girls. This alone could lead to a 3% cut to China’s GDP.
Yes, it’s an extreme example. But it illustrates the point - social inequality will continue to impact economic progress if we don’t address it head-on.
Balance matters, it’s not just a slogan or a trending topic on Twitter, but a true indicator of what we could achieve if we work together – men and women – to create a world where opportunities are available to all, regardless of background. The reality is that everyone gains from the full social and economic empowerment of women.
A more prosperous society is good for us all. #balanceforbetter
This article has been contributed by Heeral Gudka (click to find out more about Heeral).
She set up her coaching business after 15 years in the insurance industry, experiencing first-hand the impact that intelligent and genuine leadership has on people, and also the impact of poor leadership on productivity and morale. Heeral has worked with Hiscox, SAGA, Tandem, Argenta, Conyers, Dill & Pearman; Freisenbruch-Meyer, AON Bermuda, The Honeypot Children's Charity and CCS Group.