The Burden of Achieving Gender Equality

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Gender equality in the workplace is a pertinent issue today, with slow progress towards achieving parity. This article explores the financial benefits of gender diversity, the current status of women in the corporate world, and the need for conscious effort to promote equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

By Tiekie Barnard, CEO, Shift Impact and SVAI

March is International Women’s Month and the fight for leadership to see the benefits of Gender Equality continues. The apathy is astounding if one takes into consideration as per McKinsey Gender Parity Report from 2015, that is 7 years ago, that we can add $12 trillion to the global GDP.

In America, the #MeToo movement from 2017 called for the advancement of women on boards after the allegations of harassment and abuse of power by men were exposed through this movement. However, on February 6th, 2023 Bloomberg reports that the pace of women gaining seats on S&P 500 boards slowed down and, according to Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, dropped 3.5% in December.

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s groundbreaking study from 2019, When Women Lead, Firms Win, found that firms with female CFOs are more profitable and have produced superior stock price performance compared to the market average. Why then are we still lagging in achieving Gender Equality in the workplace?

In addition, research further found that firms with high gender diversity on their board of directors have been more profitable than larger firms with less gender diversity. There is a definite financial advantage that gender-diverse companies have over their peers as per S&P Global’s #ChangePays initiative that explored the importance of gender equality and inclusive economies.

Is the burden then that women carry far bigger than our male counterparts? We carry the burden of the consequences of our male counterparts who cannot shift their mindsets to even think about a more equal society. Is our patriarchal leadership even capable of getting past the fact that women can do more than just clean, make tea and do the filing? Then we also carry the burden of being cast out as males protect their own as “boys club” thinking, dare I say, is part of the male DNA.

Let me reiterate: We are not excluding the important role of men in the workplace; simply that we need to implement equal opportunities for all. Let’s consciously discard the bias that disregards females due expectation of less time that they will have for work (i.e. due to maternity leave and various stereotypical family responsibilities. Simply judge both applicants by the same criteria, regardless of their gender – it is about providing equal opportunities.

We need to consciously drop the prejudice and look at the McKinsey report, look at the S&P Global Market Intelligence report, and take a step into the real future. We were all created equal, it is the man that through the ages, has indoctrinated society through religion and other means to reinforce the thinking that a woman is of lesser value. Case in point, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the way they are treating women. Back home in South Africa, we’ve just had another 22% increase in femicide (women killed by an intimate partner). Who gives one human the right over another to just kill the other? Is she is not doing what you want her to do?

Women have the right to demand a future where we are all treated with respect and as equals and where we are not judged according to our gender. In addition, speaking out for the LGBTQIA+ community. One’s sexual preferences as an individual do not affect one’s ability to deliver as an employee. Business can be the game changer to influence and educate male employees internally as often prejudiced behaviour is not even recognised as we think it is okay but #itsnotok.

Tiekie Signature
Founder & CEO