As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I think of my grandson, now six months old, and the world I hope he will grow up in.
I hope he is part of a society where parental leave is available to and accessed by both parents equally. The United States and Papua New Guinea are the only countries left in the world that still don’t guarantee paid maternity leave, according to a new report on gender equality from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
I hope he grows up in a country where we have equal numbers of CEOs who are women. Today the number of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies in the US is a paltry 6.8%.
I hope he grows up in a world where women are in decision-making roles and have a seat at the senior executive table. According to the World Economic Forum, the proportion of women in senior executive roles globally has been stuck at 24% for more than a decade.
I hope he grows up in a world where women and men equally occupy roles in STEM as well as in professions such as nursing, education, HR, and chefs where men are underrepresented. According to Catalyst, women make up less than a quarter (24%) of those employed in STEM occupations, and only 9% of nurses are men.
I hope he grows up in a country where Boards are comprised of equal numbers of men and women. Today, women hold just 20% of board seats in the Russell 3000.
I hope he grows up in a world where women and men earn equal pay for equal work. Today, women in the US earn 80.5% of what men earn.
And I hope he grows up in a country where women of color occupy positions of power at parity with white women. Today, less than 2% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women of color; women of color make up 4% of the C-suite and the percentage of 2018 F500 board seats occupied by African American, Asian-Pacific Islanders and Hispanic women is a mere 3%, 1.3% and 8%, respectively (Catalyst).
A study by McKinsey projects that in a “full potential” scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men, $28 trillion dollars (26%) would be added to the annual global GDP when compared to the current business-as-usual scenario.
But more importantly, it will enrich my grandson’s life and the lives of those of his generation.
We cannot wait!
Global gender equality will take 108 years, according to the World Economic Forum and, in the US, it will take 208 years!! Clearly, we cannot wait! Even one more year is too long! As Rick Goings, former chairman and CEO of Tupperware Brands said, “Some things just cannot wait. Men must stand up now for women’s equality.”
I am counting on future generations to ensure that we have complete equity so that men and women of my grandson’s generation, 25 years from now, can enjoy the benefits. It can be done if men work side-by-side with women as champions and allies to ensure that the change happens. And I am counting on my grandson and his generation to ensure that equity is sustained, as it takes constant vigilance.
As Desmond Tutu said: “It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we truly measure up as men.”
Let us each do our part to ensure that future generations have the benefits of gender equality in every aspect.
I will mentor young professional women in health care as part of WomenLift Health. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WomenLift Health will begin building scalable platforms to deliver interventions supporting women’s leadership in health. Today, despite women representing 70% of the health workforce, they are an untapped and underutilized talent pool - filling only 25% of senior and 5% of top health organization positions.
What do you commit to do?