Can women rule the world (with men)?

Brooke Boyschau and Sophie Simp­son ex­plain the im­por­tance of fe­male em­pow­er­ment in the work­place

Gulf Business - - CONTENTS -

Brooke Boyschau and Sophie Simp­son

BETHINK THE words of Nel­son Man­dela who said: “As long as out­moded ways of think­ing pre­vent women from mak­ing a mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety, progress will be low. As long as the na­tion refuses to ac­knowl­edge the equal role of more than half of it­self, it is doomed to fail­ure”.

At­ti­tudes and ideas to­wards the role of women have been chang­ing fast over the past few decades. That’s not to say that ev­ery cor­ner of the world has wel­comed women mov­ing from the ‘tra­di­tional’ home into the ‘mod­ern’ and pub­lic work­force with warmth and sup­port. But move they have.

So what’s changed? A lot. As a vast and ever grow­ing body of re­search and ex­pe­ri­ence makes clear, em­pow­er­ing women makes for a pos­i­tive and bet­ter world. Not per­fect. But bet­ter. “We are be­com­ing the men we wanted to marry,” Glo­ria Steinem de­clared in the 1970s. As women launch them­selves for­ward into a more ‘pub­lic’ role, com­pa­nies are be­com­ing more prof­itable. Gov­ern­ments are more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the com­mu­ni­ties they cam­paign for. Fam­i­lies are more united and com­mu­ni­ties are health­ier. There is less vi­o­lence and more peace, sta­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity.

“Why?” we hear you ask. Well, it starts with the sim­ple truth that women of­ten ex­pe­ri­ence life from a dif­fer­ent viewpoint and that ex­pe­ri­ence and per­cep­tion af­fects the way one can iden­tify problems and think about solutions.

Amer­i­can politi­cian Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker of the US House of Representatives, told women to be true to them­selves: “You are the only per­son who can make your unique con­tri­bu­tion. Your au­then­tic­ity is your strength, be you”.

That’s not to say there aren’t ob­sta­cles; there are. Past years have seen dou­ble stan­dards to­wards women. Many stud­ies have shown that a woman’s ac­com­plish­ments are just a lit­tle less val­ued with fewer mar­gins for er­ror.

For a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing, here are a few fas­ci­nat­ing and very true stats about the chang­ing stance and un­bal­ance of women in the work­place. Women are now more than a third more likely to go to univer­sity than men, ac­cord­ing to new fig­ures that show the gap be­tween the sexes has reached record lev­els. About 30,000 more women than men are set to start de­gree cour­ses this au­tumn, UCAS data shows as of Septem­ber 2017.

In an ironic twist, as women in­creas­ingly seek out higher ed­u­ca­tion, the fur­ther up they climb on the ca­reer lad­der, the more dif­fi­cult it is for them to earn equal pay to men. As doc­u­mented by the Bureau of Labour Statis­tics, the gen­der pay gap across all oc­cu­pa­tions still re­mains huge, at a whop­ping 77.5 per cent.

To put this in per­spec­tive, the cu­mu­la­tive wage gap is more than the price of a house. By age 65, the av­er­age work­ing woman will have lost more than $430,000 over her work­ing life­time ver­sus the man sit­ting next to her. We spec­u­late she could have pur­chased her­self a very re­spectable home, or funded an­other type of lu­cra­tive long term in­vest­ment with such a tidy sum. And yet women are bring­ing home more of the ba­con and still cook­ing the fam­ily break­fast. More than ever be­fore, women are the bread­win­ners in their house­holds while con­tin­u­ing to up­hold their fam­ily ‘du­ties’. In a snapshot, as doc­u­mented by the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Sum­mit, more that 40 per cent of moth­ers are now the sole or pri­mary source of in­come in house­holds across the United States. Women are now the pri­mary or co-money maker in nearly two thirds of Amer­i­can fam­i­lies, and work­ing mar­ried women bring home 44 per cent of their fam­ily’s in­come.

Look­ing back, 2015 was a time for cel­e­bra­tion and marked the first year that the gen­der wage is­sue was forced onto the proxy bal­lot of a For­tune 100 cor­po­ra­tion. It's a start to em­pow­er­ing women and hold­ing ev­ery­one ac­count­able to equal­ity.

De­spite these on­go­ing chal­lenges, the ben­e­fits of em­pow­er­ing women are un­de­ni­able. Women are the en­gines pow­er­ing global eco­nomic growth. As a re­sult, in­vest­ing in women has be­come more than just good pub­lic re­la­tions. It has be­come a strate­gic im­per­a­tive for com­pa­nies around the world.

By look­ing to em­power women fur­ther, we are not seek­ing po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. Rather it is about im­prov­ing out­comes, in­vest­ing in more sta­ble and there­fore stronger economies and health­ier com­mu­ni­ties, end­ing con­flicts, and sus­tain­ing peace. It is about im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life for peo­ple world­wide.

Em­pow­er­ing women isn’t just the right thing; it's the nec­es­sary thing. Be­cause of change, the world is adapt­ing for the bet­ter, hold­ing a brighter fu­ture for our daugh­ters, and ev­ery gen­er­a­tion of girls to fol­low.

And to echo the words of Ch­eryl Sand­berg, “con­di­tions for all women will im­prove when there are more women in lead­er­ship roles giv­ing strong and pow­er­ful voice to their needs and con­cerns”. So go on ladies, it’s your time to lean in.

Brooke Boyschau and Sophie Simp­son Founders and man­ag­ing di­rec­tors of Dubai-based lux­ury fash­ion PR agency, At­te­line

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