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Diversity and Inclusion: Why Women (and the World) Deserve Better

Diversity and Inclusion: Why Women (and the World) Deserve Better

We’ve come so far. Yet, in a world where women lead some of the strongest democracies, including those which have scored top marks in holding back the ravages of COVID-19, we still wake up in the morning confronted with headlines of a high-ranking male director of a renowned organisation (the Olympics), quoted as saying that women talk too much and cause meetings to drag on.   

Now, lest you think perhaps this was taken out of context, or somehow misinterpreted, Mr. Mori, a former Prime Minister of Japan, went on to say, “Women have a strong sense of rivalry. If one raises her hand to speak, all the others feel the need to speak, too. Everyone ends up saying something.”

Clearly sexist, right? But why? Let’s break it down. 

Rivalry” – Rivalry and competitiveness are two factors that have helped humanity, from stimulating innovations in science to boosting economies. Rivalry and competition even provide for healthy entertainment. So, are they really negative traits, or are they only perceived as such when women display them? 

All the others feel the need to speak, too” –  Well, step aside for a moment from the proven concept that diversity and inclusion almost always have a positive net benefit, and it is from the sharing of different perspectives that new ideas are born, and that the inclusion of different ideas could only inform and enhance any decision-making process, and that this is basically the foundation of democracy – currently the most rational and just way for people to interact in our civilisation. 

Even if we ignore those few points, there is of course – in addition to a very flawed view of otherwise healthy interpersonal relationships and communication methods – the underlying and unspoken understanding in Mr. Mori’s words that it’s not so much that women talk too much, but that perhaps, they should not speak at all.  

Unfortunately, this is not unique to a particular generation, nor to Japan, nor to any one industry.  No matter the ethnicity, nationality, level of education, or type of job, women across the globe have been confronted with some sort of discrimination at the workplace due to their gender. Sometimes it exposes itself crudely, in demeaning comments like the one above, or through aggressive invasions of physical space. Otherwise, gender discrimination can occur via indirect but no less nefarious and (socially) institutionalised ways, such as passive exclusion from certain activities, career disadvantages for women who experience motherhood, or through drastic pay gaps between the genders.   

Yes, the gender pay gap, what is it? In simple words, on average, women make less than men. A more complex view factors in several variables, and allow for different adjustments, but overall, it has been shown that there are too many instances across the globe where:  

1) In companies where men and women have similar roles, women make less; or  

2) in companies where men and women in a similar role are paid more or less the same, in totality, men at the company earn more than women. 

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, we are only 100 years away from achieving gender parity.

100 years. 

Clearly scenario number one above is an easier fix than scenario number two. As for scenario number two, some may claim men earn more than women at that company because a) the executives are more likely to be male; or b) men advance in their careers more quickly because they don’t take breaks to have children; or c) when their children are sick, men don’t stay home, the mother of their children stays home.  

It should be very clear that none of those are valid reasons, not one, and as a society, we should be just as able to correct scenario number two as we are the first. When we understand why these are not valid reasons for gender-based discrimination, we will be able to resolve this injustice… hopefully in less than 100 years. 

Recently, black actor Daniel Kaluuya questioned why the onus lay on him, and other people of colour to try to figure out the problem of racism.  Similarly, when looking at the widespread economic oppression of women globally, the other half of this problem must look in towards himself. 

If you are a successful male executive, working for a juggernaut of a company, and notice that during breaks, everyone from your meetings shuffles into the same bathroom, perhaps it’s time for a change. 

Daniel Sandberg of S&P Global proves in his report, “When Women Lead, Firms Win” that companies with more women in executive and board positions do better financially. Mr. Sandberg is not alone in finding this. McKinsey & Company’s Diversity Wins Report 2020, determined that: “Companies whose boards are in the top quartile of gender diversity are 28 percent more likely than their peers to outperform financially.” So whether you are a company seeking to boost its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) credentials, or simply want to create wealth in an ethical manner, it’s a no-brainer – Add more women to your boards, and advance more women to executive level positions. You will make more money.   

How, you ask? Well, there are, of course, various reasons, but one interesting and ironic discovery is that because women generally must struggle against so much discrimination and adversity in the workplace as they advance in their careers, the women who do make it to the higher levels of management tend to outperform their male counterparts because they have “paid their dues” many times over. 

We have seen in the European Commission’s 2021 Report on Gender Equality, that when society fails to give women equal access to work, there can be several dreadful knock-on effects. Case in point: during the COVID-19 pandemic, women in European Union countries have been disproportionately affected because of their over-representation in lower-paid sectors, including nursing and hospitality. These are jobs which see women either at a higher risk of infection, or not able to work – or if they do get back to work, facing a higher chance of becoming ill. Of course, someone needs to work these jobs, and plenty of men do… but not as many men hold these types of positions as do women. The questions we must ask ourselves are: why is it that jobs in lower-paid sectors are primarily held by women? And why do we seem to think that this status quo is okay? 

As mentioned before, the way out of this pit is to look to ourselves. Every human being has the potential to lead.  Leading by example in everything that we do. And when there is any doubt, society should be able to look to those who carry the banner of leadership, demanding that they do better.   

Leaders must lead. Heads of states, CEOs, directors of organisations, even the heads of local neighbourhood volunteer groups must be more than a leader in name. These people need to set the example. The effects will spread. 

Inclusion Matters. 

When a little girl looks up and sees that the leader of her country is a woman, she knows that perhaps one day she can be President, or Prime Minister too.   

When a board of directors is struggling to decide what direction to take a company that has fallen on difficult times, having more women on the board, of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences will promote deeper discussions that reflect the real world.   

So what can we do? 

Hire more women. Respect them and treat them equally. Pay them equally. 

What should we do? 

Hire more women. Respect them and treat them equally. Pay them equally. 

What must we do? 

Hire more women. Respect them and treat them equally. Pay them equally. 

Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but equality is a fairly simple concept.

This article was authored by Ray DeSouza, writer at slavefreetrade.