Mat­ters

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

vi­o­lence from an in­ti­mate part­ner. Women who en­joy par­ity in ed­u­ca­tion are more likely to share un­paid work with men more eq­ui­tably, to work in high-pro­duc­tiv­ity pro­fes­sional and tech­ni­cal oc­cu­pa­tions, and to as­sume lead­er­ship roles.

To re­in­force such progress, le­gal pro­vi­sions guar­an­tee­ing the rights of women as full mem­bers of so­ci­ety should be in­tro­duced or ex­panded. Such pro­vi­sions have been shown to in­crease fe­male labour-force par­tic­i­pa­tion, while im­prov­ing out­comes ac­cord­ing to sev­eral so­cial in­di­ca­tors, in­clud­ing vi­o­lence against women, child mar­riage, un­met need for fam­ily plan­ning, and ed­u­ca­tion.

Im­proved ac­cess to fi­nan­cial ser­vices, mo­bile phones, and dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy is also linked to higher rates of fe­male la­bor-force par­tic­i­pa­tion, in­clud­ing in lead­er­ship roles, and de­creased time spent do­ing un­paid care work. And, as it stands, women spend a lot of time on such work, ac­count­ing for 75% of it, on aver­age, world­wide.

Un­paid care work – which in­cludes the vi­tal tasks that keep house­holds func­tion­ing, such as look­ing af­ter chil­dren and the el­derly, cook­ing, and clean­ing – ob­vi­ously amounts to a ma­jor hur­dle to more ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in the econ­omy. If men shared such re­spon­si­bil­i­ties more eq­ui­tably, busi­nesses adopted more flex­i­ble and “care- friendly” work sched­ules, and govern­ments pro­vided more sup­port for child­care and other fam­ily-care func­tions, fe­male la­bor-force par­tic­i­pa­tion rates could rise sig­nif­i­cantly.

It is cer­tainly in the in­ter­est of com­pa­nies to do more to sup­port gen­der equal­ity, which ex­pands the pool of tal­ent from which they can se­lect em­ploy­ees and man­agers. More­over, more women mean more in­sight into the men­tal­ity of fe­male cus­tomers. And, per­haps most im­por­tant to a com­pany, a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence sug­gests that the pres­ence of women in ex­ec­u­tive and board po­si­tions can in­crease cor­po­rate re­turns.

One of the high­est bar­ri­ers to gen­der par­ity, how­ever, may be deeply held be­liefs and at­ti­tudes. As Anne-Marie Slaugh­ter em­pha­sises in her re­cent book, both men and women un­der­value care work rel­a­tive to paid work out­side the home. Like­wise, sur­veys in­di­cate that size­able shares of men and women world­wide con­tinue to be­lieve that chil­dren suf­fer when their moth­ers work. And nu­mer­ous stud­ies doc­u­ment con­tin­ued im­plicit bi­ases against women in hir­ing and pro­mo­tion pro­cesses, trig­ger­ing grow­ing in­ter­est in Sil­i­con Val­ley star­tups that use tech­nol­ogy to mit­i­gate such bi­ases through­out their hu­man-re­sources op­er­a­tions.

Clearly, reach­ing gen­der par­ity will be no easy feat. But it re­mains vitally im­por­tant, both to im­prove out­comes for women and girls, and to ad­vance eco­nomic devel­op­ment and pros­per­ity for all.

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