You’ve seen these figures before: 100 years to close the overall gender gap, 257 to close the economic gender gap. It’s beyond our lifetime and too long to wait. What can be done to accelerate the closing of these gaps – or rather, chasms – by us, our companies and our governments?
Many countries, including the UK, are well placed to reap the benefits of their investment in female education and harness the gender balance opportunities made possible by the changing nature of work. So far, they – and we – have failed to do so.
But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can do things differently! We can work from home without disrupting the flow of business, we can reverse the signs of environmental damage to our planet, we can slow down, look up and ‘smell the roses’ once in a while. And, yes, we can accelerate the closing of these unspeakable gaps.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has already launched a programme with a number of countries to do just that. Suitably named the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator, the programme is designed to pull together global and national public and private action that narrows these gaps. To date, the WEF has managed to secure commitment from nine governments around the world to join the Accelerator programme (its goal is 15 by the end of this year). Only one of the nine is a G20 country – and it is not the UK.
My point is that the tools and solutions to help accelerate the closing of these gaps are available to us, but for some reason, we are not taking the necessary steps to implement them – either on a national or more local front.
One of my worries is that the lessons we have and are continuing to learn from the pandemic will not be captured by our society. I worry that we will all return to work and life in the same way we did before Covid-19. This would be a lost opportunity; to reset our values, our priorities and our trajectories and to look at our lives from a different perspective and to realise that they could be different.
In April, I wrote about the fact that the new way in which we have started to interact with each other as a result of having to work and live from/at home has made us more empathetic, more accepting and more kind. We have reverted to what it means to be human and have injected that humanity into our work. We have become more tolerant of the daily disruptions in our work from children and pets; our “offices” show glimpses of who we are as people; we’re reconnecting with nature and with ourselves – our emotions and philosophies – as much as with distant friends and family. In other words, we’re bringing more of ourselves to work and are accepting of who that is, of us as well as our colleagues. Our managers are learning to lead with humour and be more comfortable with being less serious all the time. We care about the emotional and physical state of our colleagues and bend over backwards to help them cope.
I classify all this as inclusive behaviours. And, while we may feel that it’s not within our powers (query as to whether this is true) to persuade our CEOs and MPs to join the WEF’s commitment to accelerate the closing of gender parity gaps, what we most certainly can do is preserve how we interact with and treat each other when we go back to our desks in the office, and continue to nurture those inclusive behaviours that we have started to develop.
Inclusion leads to greater appreciation of diversity which makes programmes like the WEF’s Closing the Gender Parity Accelerators feasible and impactful.
Learn more about the WEF Accelerator programme and how your company can get involved.
Watch a short WEF video on the gender parity gap.