“I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” It’s half a century since Helen Reddy’s iconic female empowerment anthem, I Am Woman, become a global number one hit. Yet women’s voices, opinions and contributions are still struggling to be heard in the business world, despite the fact that they make a huge positive difference when they are.
That’s why ‘Choose to Challenge’ is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8th. We may now have the first female US vice president and first female head of Britain’s biggest trade union, but true equality is far from here, even in progressive workplaces.
Female leaders – from Denmark to New Zealand – have been the most successful in responding to coronavirus pandemic. They all combine decisiveness and effectiveness with compassion and empathetic communication – all fantastic business traits. Yet currently just over 20 of the world’s 192 nations have female leaders. Fewer than a quarter of FTSE-100 board members are women.
By excluding women from full participation in the workplace, humanity is constantly shooting itself in the foot, not to mention both legs. Women’s equality is a win-win: resisting it is like turning down a lottery win.
Studies by McKinsey, the US consultancy, show that real gender equality in the workforce would increase global GDP by a staggering $28 trillion a year by 2025 and boost company profitability by an average of 21%. There’s much more, but the penny should be dropping by now: Promoting gender equality should not just be women’s work – everyone should champion it.
Men do just as well out of true equality: Iceland has the smallest socio-economic gender gap in Europe. Men there have the highest life expectancy. Go figure.
The good news is that business is waking up to the huge gains to be made from greater gender equality: better working environments; boosted productivity and enhanced reputation.
That’s why we all need International Women’s Day. Why would a team dispense with the incredible talents, abilities and creativity of half its members? Challenging that outdated thinking, and unleashing the socio-economic power of women, will lead to change for the better for everyone.
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