World needs to strike the right gender balance

Published : 08 Mar 2023 08:46 PM

By 2030, we can expect women to be an economic force to reckon with and a social force that we must enable across the world and it is now that the process needs to start.The proportion of women with a college degree is nearly 40% as compared to men, which stands at 32%. This shift has been a gradual progression that has been observed over several decades now.

As women strive to seek out opportunities beyond the household, they are more focused on pursuing higher education, a career and fulfil their potential alongside their male counterparts.In US, the average age of women and men getting married has increased to 27 and 29 respectively, increasing the age at which women are considering having children.

Postponement of childbearing is also limiting the number of children, allowing women to actively contribute their talent and time elsewhere.Even from a health perspective, women are expected to outlive their male counterparts by at least four to seven years, prolonging the years spent at work or accumulating savings and their wealth. As they live longer, they are more likely to invest on healthcare, lifestyle and education, for themselves and for their families.

Considering all the above factors, this year’s International Women’s Day 2023 theme – Embrace Equity, is an important steppingstone to ensure that countries and organisations around the world relook at the ways in which they are leveraging the potential of women, recognise their long-term value and create a level playing field. To do so, we must first understand the difference between equity and equality.

Equality vs equity

Women of the world have been voting for equity rather than equality between the genders and there is a subtle, yet very significant difference between the two. When we talk about equality, it is assumed that all other things are on similar or even keel between two parties.

However, this has not been the case between men and women. Women have always had to struggle to find their voice and fight harder to claim their rights and place under the sun.A study of Gender Equality by Gates Foundation concludes that ‘with just 11 years to go until 2030, nearly 40% of the world’s girls and women – 1.5 billion- live in countries failing in gender equality.’

Women lose out on steady rise in the corporate hierarchy, to getting the position they deserve according to their qualifications and capabilities and find themselves short-changed when it comes to finding a deserving seat at the boardroom.According to the latest McKinsey Report studying the impact of Covid 19 pandemic on job cuts, it was found that layoffs too followed a gender-specific pattern.

Creating a level playing field

The report further said that women who made up 39 per cent of global employment accounted for 54 per cent of overall job losses globally and women’s jobs continue to be 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. And that is why, the issue between men and women is not that of equality but equity.

A report by the US-based Neuro leadership institute defines equality as aspirational. It is more of a utopian term which might take aeons to achieve, while equity is defined as an absence of disparity.It is an actionable term and is about fairness and implementation by making sure the fairer gender is given a decent chance with extra push and opportunities to make up for the lost opportunity and lost time.

Embracing Equity, this years’ motto for International Women’s day is about creating level playing fields between genders by providing for women to catch up on this uneven pace of disparity.Women need more leadership roles, more representation in the boardroom, and key decision-making positions. This is especially so in healthcare as a UNICEF report points out that women make up nearly 70 per cent of the global health workforce.

UAE, the gender parity leader in Arab World

We have seen the transformation of the UAE economy in a short span of 50 years, where women are given a rightful representation at the workplace and in key socio-economic and political decision-making roles.Women constitute nearly 50 per cent of the Federal National Council and 29 per cent of ministerial positions in UAE government.They occupy leadership positions in military, education, health care, armed forces, space research, humanities, culture and in other key economic sectors.

One can easily see the impact this has made and that includes equal pay on par with the male counterparts, absence of discrimination for pregnant women and the facility for a smooth trajectory for merit-based promotions for both genders. An achievement that has earned UAE the first rank in the Arab World in 2020 on the Gender Balance Index.

The beginning has been made and as they say, it is work in progress.Even as the world is grasping the full import of the transformational potential of gender equity, we need to acknowledge its impact and get more women the long overdue seat at the decision-making table.

Alisha Moopen is the Deputy Managing Director, Aster DM Healthcare. Source: Gulf News