While the world is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of gender equality for a sustainable future, latest data by the World Economic Forum show little progress, estimating it will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap. What is the role of business in helping shape a more inclusive and gender-balanced future?
Gender equality: What it is and why it is important
Gender equality at work means promoting opportunities for all genders to enjoy decent work in terms of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. For example, this can be achieved by improving women’s access to education, skills training, and health care. Achieving gender equality at work is a fundamental human right and a key pillar of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 5 and SDG 8).
Except for this, achieving gender equality at work is important, not only because it is ‘the right thing to do,’ but also because it is economically beneficial. For example, it is proven that empowering women creates social and economic value in the marketplace and the whole community, while enhancing businesses’ reputation and ability to attract talent and retain employees.
Gender equality at work: Key figures
- Globally, women are paid approximately 20% less than men (See more on the gender pay gap here)
- Women represent just 27% of all manager positions
- In 2022, the number of women running Fortune Global 500 companies increased to 24, which is less than 5% of the companies.
- In 2022, the global gender gap has been closed by 68.1%.
- At the current rate of progress, it will take 132 years to reach full parity.
- North America and Europe rank first and second, respectively, in gender parity at work while South Africa ranks last.
- While no country has yet achieved full gender parity, the top 10 economies have closed at least 80% of their gender gaps, with Iceland (90.8%), Finland (86%), Norway (84.5%) and Sweden (82.2%) making the top-five.
- Women account for 22% of leadership roles in Supply Chain and Transportation industry based on a sample from 155 countries.
- Technology, Energy, Supply Chain and Transportation are the three sectors showing the biggest improvement in their women-in-leadership hiring rate.
Key barriers to gender equality
- Maternity: About 649 million women face inadequate maternity protection globally. This may include pregnant workers facing several forms of discriminatory behavior, such as lack of promotions or, in the shipping industry, hesitation of being recruited onboard. The recent trend of paternity leave seeks to reduce the stigma for women, but it is still not applicable to two-thirds of the world’s fathers, UN data suggest.
- Violence: Estimates suggest that globally as many as 75% of women over age 18 – at least 2 billion women – have experienced sexual harassment at work. Harassment is a particularly sensitive issue in the shipping sector, where the enclosed ship environment and lack of monitoring create a fruitful ground for bullying and harassment of women and any other gender onboard. A recent survey completed by 1128 women from 78 countries, a 60% reported encountering gender-based discrimination onboard.
- Limited access to education: In general, women have limited access to education and skills development compared to men, because of trends related to poverty and child marriage. Meanwhile, they are often disproportionately burdened with unpaid care and domestic work, which can contribute to limited access to employment and economic opportunities.
Achieving gender equality at work: The role of supply chains
An estimated 80% of global trade passes through supply chains annually, so companies that commit to advancing working conditions in their supply chains can significantly improve the lives of many people. This is why the UN Global Compact has produced a decent work toolkit advising business how to achieve gender equality in supply chains:
- Finding a starting point may be hard, but an important first step is to review all existing policies to identify any gender gaps that need to be addressed for developing a comprehensive corporate strategy.
- Recognizing the role of external stakeholders is a second important step, including engaging with business partners and suppliers and service providers that collaborate with women-owned and gender-responsive businesses to improve their access to global supply chains as part of this process.
- Understand the state of play, by using a gender gap analysis tool and appointing a cross-functional responsible committee to assess your strategy. It is also important that a company comprehends the barriers and obstacles facing women-owned businesses and the role companies can play in helping to overcome them and the status of your supplier network.
- Integrate gender-sensitive language and commitments in your company and supplier codes of conduct and apply due diligence processes to address any gaps.
- Communicate the revised strategy to all colleagues in procurement and provide training on the importance of gender equality. Post tenders in places frequently accessed by women entrepreneurs, such as classified ads or digital platforms.
- Measure success by introducing assessment and selection criteria on gender equality for current and future suppliers and business partners –communicate with them, including any expectations and requirements they will be required to meet, provide training to encourage open dialogue and share best practices and opportunities for collaboration.
Leave a Reply