The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report predicts that at our current rate of change the world won’t reach gender parity until 2186.
However this date isn’t set in stone. We can move the dial by enacting change now—stepping up, making big commitments and actively pushing for equality.
International Women’s Day
Women’s Day was first observed in New York in 1909 but wasn’t celebrated worldwide until 1977, when 8 March was proclaimed the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. Since then, International Women’s Day has been an opportunity for people around the world to celebrate the achievements of women and girls, and highlight areas where we still need to work to redress gender inequality.
In 2016 the UN International Women’s Day theme was “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”—however, it wasn’t until later that year the Global Gender Gap report demonstrated how much of a stretch goal this really is.
It’s this big gap between where we are and where we want to be that lies behind our decision to take Be Bold For Change as our theme for International Women’s Day 2017.
The 2016 Global Gender Gap report
The 2016 Global Gender Gap report noted that over the decade the World Economic Forum has been measuring data, the global gender gap had narrowed by a mere 3%. They’re projecting that at our current rate, it will take 169 years to achieve gender parity worldwide.
Given the links between gender equality and economic success, health and environmental sustainability, it’s far too long to wait! In fact, the UN Sustainable Development goals place gender equality at the heart of their success, stating: “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.”
That’s why it’s so important—to create successful economies and a fairer world—that we take bigger steps to achieve gender equality.
The situation in New Zealand
In 2016 New Zealand was ranked 9th in the Global Gender Gap report, moving up one place from 2015. While this is encouraging, it’s important that we avoid complacency: though we score highly in regards to education and health outcomes, but these numbers aren’t translating into other areas of society, like political empowerment and the economy.
Global Women is particularly focused on looking at actions to redress the gender pay gap and move more women into senior leadership.
The gender pay gap
One way of improving economic outcomes for all New Zealanders is to actively work towards fixing pay inequity.
New Zealand’s current gender pay gap sits at 12%. Although the Ministry of Women states that the gap has been slowly reducing since the 1990s, this gap is still too high—especially given that the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1972, 45 years ago.
Last year, the Government accepted the recommendations of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles. This is great progress! We need to keep up this momentum by working together to keep the issue in the public eye and achieve real change for all New Zealanders.
Women in leadership
Key to achieving gender equality and tapping into its benefits is equal representation of women in both in political and business leadership.
New Zealand ranks 16th in the world for equal representation in parliament with a 0.390 score where 1.000 would represent gender equality. We also know that women are well represented in senior management in the public sector, with over 45% of senior leadership roles held by women: however, in the private sector, it’s a different story.
A cause for celebration is that we now have our first female CEO of an NZX50 company: Kate McKenzie, became Chorus CEO in February 2017. However, with 125 companies listed on the NZX, we still have a long way to go. Women are also underrepresented on boards, making up only 17% of boards on NZX listed companies, compared to 27% on FTSE100 boards and 21.5% on ASX200 boards. More disappointingly, the most recent NZX diversity report revealed that 45% of all companies listed on the New Zealand stock exchange have no women directors at all.
Here at Global Women we’re advocating for a minimum target of 30% female board composition of NZX50 listed companies by 2020. We believe that continued diversity reporting is key to identifying and addressing this imbalance, because what gets measured gets done.
Taking bold, proactive steps to enact change
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa
So, what can you do to close the gender gap? It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that this is too big an issue to deal with as an individual—but it’s the small changes that lead to the large.
Start by championing women in the workplace: sponsor their careers, take junior women to senior meetings, launch a female-focussed initiative, nominate women to senior jobs, or bring an emerging women leader to a Global Women event.
Invest in your female leadership and set bold targets for the gender make up of your organisation, at all tiers. Take unconscious bias out of the equation and introduce blind recruitment for roles, or push to introduce targets for female leadership. You could also reaffirm your commitment to pay equity by signing up to the Treat Her Right campaign, which is raising awareness of pay inequity in New Zealand.
Challenge gender inequality when you see it: challenge organisers of all-male speaking panel events and educate boys about stereotypes and violence against women.
Together, we can turn the World Economic Forum’s gender parity prediction on its head. Let’s not settle for gender equality in our great great great granddaughters’ lifetimes, and Be Bold for Change now.