International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate how far the world has come in the fight for gender equality but also to reassess our approach.
As the CEO of a global network, I see women all around the world breaking through the glass ceiling that has long been above them in the traditionally male-dominated world of business. However, the World Economic Forum this year predicted that the gender pay gap will not close until 2186. This is not good enough; we should all endeavour to be bolder for change in this aspect as well as other wider diversity issues. This is the message at the heart of this year’s International Women’s Day.
When I meet our members around the world, I am consistently impressed by the energy and creativity which emerges from the diversity of cultures within our regions and member firms. As an organisation we have shared values. We pride ourselves on understanding our clients’ needs and wants, and are passionate about getting them there. We also understand the challenges faced by internationally ambitious middle market businesses. As with gender diversity, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for our clients. The same problem often has different solutions depending on our clients’ goals and ambitions.
I am excited to see governments around the world beginning to take a new approach to gender diversity. Seven countries - the United States, Australia, the Seychelles, Norway, Sweden, Finland and, as of last week, the United Kingdom - have appointed envoys for gender equality. These diplomats are tasked with helping to promote gender equality, tackling violence against women and encouraging female education around the world. Their approach is not to impose a single solution. These envoys learn about the unique challenges and opportunities on the ground to help encourage real change, not just rhetoric. As Joanna Roper, the UK’s Gender Equality Special Envoy said this week, “It’s about trying to understand where you can start the conversation, understanding what will work.”
As a key driver of change, the business world has a strong role to play in the conversation around diversity. We must all drive towards the same goal but solutions to gender inequality cannot simply be enforced as blanket policies. Minimum standards will remain important, but progress can only be made if we all share responsibility for finding solutions to drive change that are appropriate, relevant and effective. Whether it be through supporting female education in communities, targeting the gender pay gap or setting ambitious quotas for senior leadership teams, let’s all be bold for change.
Happy International Women’s Day 2017