Let’s make 2021 count for women

In 2015, the 193 member countries of the United Nations came together to commit to 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 5 focused on gender equality and set the ambitious target of achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls everywhere by 2030.

World leaders at the UN General Assembly assess progress, look ahead to recovery, and commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the Beijing declaration.

If progress in covering gender gaps in work and society had been rated as marginal since 2015, Covid-19 crisis recovery will interrupt that pace.

Although most countries including Cyprus, women are making slow and steady progress in equality, they continue to work a double shift at home as women do three times as much unpaid care work as men.

On average, they work nearly nine hours a day, and only about half of that is paid, the other half is unpaid care work.  This is a fact of developing as well as the advanced economy countries.

Women make up 39 percent of global employment but accounted for 54 percent of overall job losses as of May 2020, whereas job losses in Cyprus were around 11% for both genders as of October 2020.

The pandemic also had noneconomic consequences, such as increased incidents of reported violence against women from their intimate partner during lockdowns.

Some research has found some progress in the advancement of women through the corporate glass ceiling over the years.  Women made up 21 percent of the management roles, compared with 17 percent in 2019. However, as these numbers show, women are underrepresented at all levels of organizations.

According to a report, the biggest obstacle to women on the corporate ladder is in the first step up to manager level.

On average, 34% of managers in the EU are female, Latvia holding the highest share with 45% and Cyprus standing at just 27%, way below the top ranking and EU average.

There is a large gap to cover and now COVID-19 mean that women face new challenges on top of old ones. All stakeholders need to work together to work together on comprehensive solutions to the complex issue of gender inequality.

The government can enable change by removing legal barriers against women, protecting them from violence, giving them financial support and childcare assistance. Accelerate gender equality through incentives for women’s education, entrepreneurship, and business lending.  Also, nongovernmental organizations have an important role to play to shape attitudes and social norms.

It is important for companies to act on a number of fronts starting with their own employees, attracting, retaining, and promoting women.  It is even more important for Individuals to make a contribution too, from advocating for themselves in their own careers to helping others advance through sponsorship and mentorship.

At work, be proactive in supporting talented women and speaking up if you see unconscious bias.  Include men and listen to their ideas and concerns during conversations on gender parity.  In your personal lives, you can explore your own biases, both conscious and unconscious. If you have families, you can aim to raise sons and daughters who are not constrained by gender. If you are investing, you can back companies that are driving gender equality in a way that is consistent with your values.

Let’s reflect on progress made and celebrate acts of courage and determination by women.  It’s time to create more opportunities for women and the next generation to aspire and contribute to a more just society. It is a goal we need to work on and meet collectively by 2030 and beyond.