by Vanina Laurent-Ledru - 8 mars 2021
International Women’s day is here and it should be a day of celebration to take stock of the many achievements in women's empowerment like Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna taking home the Nobel Prize in Chemistry or the election of the US first female Vice-President.
Yet….COVID seems to have swept away so many of the past progresses.
The pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the daily lives of women. In a Deloitte survey, 82% of women surveyed said their lives have been negatively disrupted by the pandemic and 70% of women who have experienced these disruptions are concerned their career growth may be limited as a result. Globally, women’s job losses due to Covid-19 are 1.8 times greater than men’s. It is that bad that we seem to be now in a 'shecession’ - heavily affecting sectors like hospitality and retail.
We are at an inflection point- with vaccines arriving in a number of countries and with yet so many countries in the midst of the pandemic, companies and organizations must step up to prevent a roll-back of gender equality. A number of studies have been issued with various recommendations.
Build Back Better
For me, ensuring equal representation is the first and dare I say most important step towards gender equality. I think of it in 3 simple steps:
Share the knowledge : what is good for greater gender equality is also good for the economy and society as a whole. Once organizations truly understand that diversity fuels performance and innovation, they can put the right resources behind it. Moreover, companies now pulling back on diversity and inclusion may be placing themselves at a disadvantage in terms of resilience and the ability to recover from the current crisis. It will limit their access to talent, diverse skills, leadership styles, and perspectives.
Call out systemic bias coming from men and women alike. @Women : empower your female colleagues, support one another, join networks, mentor, lead with empathy, persist! @Men: speak up if you see bias, mentor, lead with empathy, celebrate diversity!
Broaden the definition of leadership: the future of work has already started and it requires highly collaborative leaders who thrive in fluid, diverse and non-hierarchical organizations.
All in all, ensuring equal representation is not sufficient to achieve gender equality of course. With COVID, it is now clear than countries and companies must invest in the care economy and education (no school- no working mum can feel 100% present in her job 100% of the time).
Little drops of water make a mighty ocean: it is vital for organizations to step up to meet this moment and its specific challenges, or we risk facing a major setback in our pursuit of reaching equal and performing organizations.