From the emergence of the powerful social media hashtag, #MeToo, and the outpouring of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Hollywood and Silicon Valley big-wigs, to high-profile woman demanding equal pay; the pressure for women’s rights and gender parity has never been greater.
For the past couple of years harassment and gender inequality in the workplace has dominated headlines following a global reckoning on sexual misconduct and gender parity rippling through industries.
Last year alone saw a slew of vocal, headline-grabbing fights for the awareness of gender equality rights, from Hollywood's red carpet protests in support of #TimesUp to the Google employee worldwide walkout and the exposure of sexual harassment behaviors at large and powerful Silicon Valley firms.
This momentum for equal rights continues to be pursued, with members of the Democratic party in the US wearing white at U.S. President Donald Trump's State of the Nation address, and with January's Global Women's Marches, which channeled a level of energy and anger that fueled the #MeToo movement. There is also a notable sea-change in attitudes towards women in the film industry, which has been blighted by sexual misconduct and inequality. Film studios such as JJ Abrams' Bad Robot, Universal and Disney have signed up to support Time's Up #4percentchallenge, and Disney CEO Bob Iger claims his company is already making big steps toward better female representation in the director's chair. It's next big Marvel movie, Captain Marvel, for instance, having two directors – one woman, one man (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck). A first for the Marvel Universe.
"Equal rights is not just a fight for women – all of us need to stand in solidarity with our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends to say that discrimination, in all shapes and forms, will not be tolerated."
Mayor of London
Gender equality is about fairness in pay and opportunities, and challenging and removing outdated or sexist views. But, even with many strides made and glass ceilings smashed, women still fall behind men across key areas of society. According to a 2015 report published by the UN, the income of female workers worldwide will lag behind male workers for another 70 years if the pay gap continues to shrink at its current rate. And most notably, the Global Gender Pay Gap Report announced the unsettling reality is that gender pay parity is still 200 years away.
The report also states that less than 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women, and only about 34% of global managers are women. Staggeringly low considering research suggests that having greater diversity on boards is critical to sustaining performance. According to the Harvard Business Review, Fortune 500 companies with the highest number of women directors reported a 42% greater return on sales and a 53% higher return on equity than the rest.
Here at SAI Global we are proud to report that 51% of our employee population are women, 50% of our executive leadership team are women and 49% of employees in our senior leadership team are women. Our brand mission and corporate behaviors are at the heart of everything we do, our business philosophy and values enable trust, integrity and a respectful workplace to be our moral compass.
But while there is still significant progress to be made across all industries, the achievements and evolution of the feminist movement and the transformation in attitudes towards women's rights and gender parity has seen the tide turn. With the trajectory surrounding women's rights what we are seeing now is business leaders and boards retooling their perspectives and looking inwards at their own organization's culture and ethical risk.
As a result more organizations are putting their weight behind initiatives to balance their workforce by attracting more women into key career paths. Last year oil giant Shell launched a digital campaign to close the gender gap and attract more women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers. Its highly-impactful video, which has had over 1.2 million views on YouTube, resulted in over 40% of its STEM intake being female.
As well as this there has been a rise in the level of awareness for a modern approach to learning, culture and employee communication as more organizations are actively engaging to protect their ethical core by moving beyond simply introducing a set of corporate values and putting in place the tools and solutions to manage conduct risks such as sexual harassment.
Changing the Narrative
Despite the momentum achieved over the past year being significant and having the potential to lead to actual change – the gender pay gap is barely narrowing, the number of women in high-powered positions is flatlining, there's a lack of female political representation and the persistent problems of rape and domestic abuse – there is still some way to go before the issue of gender parity is a thing of the past. In order to take a step to obliterate the issue, we need to do more than just upping women's salaries as the gender gap goes much further than that. Yes, we need to pay women more, but quick-fire salary increases will do nothing to combat a problem that has permeated our society. We need to make women and girls aware of their worth and instil a sense of confidence in them – breaking down imposter syndrome and instead building up a belief that they can pursue whatever career, subject or passion they decide on, unencumbered by their gender.
We need to teach both girls and boys that there's no such thing as a male subject or a female subject to study at school, much like there's no such thing as a man's job or woman's job. There is, however, such a thing as having the right person for the job.