The Time To Act Is Now

Published on 8 Jun 2016 . 4 min read

 “None of us can do everything. But each of us can do something,”  -- Meryl Streep

Streep was speaking at an event that honored women change makers, and her words work beautifully to explain what actor, activist and UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson has been pushing for lately. While speaking at the UN’s HeForShe program Watson said: “We want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality.” The ‘HeForShe’ program works to ensure gender equality as a human rights issue. An issue which needs both men and women to work together for it be successful and create the change it envisages to make.

This is also something believes in, constantly advocating for the inclusion of men in the conversation to help create a more diverse workforce. Both the genders have to match shoulders to achieve!

The Global Gender Gap Index 2015, has ranked 145 economies according to how successfully they are leveraging their female talent pool, based on economic, educational, health and political indicators. India ranks 108! A rather poor performance. Globally, the gender gap across health, education, economic opportunity and politics has closed by only 4% in the past 10 years. The economic gap has closed by just 3%. Looking at the trend, it’ll take another 118 years to close the pay gap between the two genders!

It is interesting to know that 48% of women in India choose to leave their careers even before they reach mid-level because of “family pressure and cultural norms”. Getting married and having a baby still means the end of a career for many. Working mothers feel a strong sense of guilt and give up work. A mere 5% reach the c-suite.

Dominic Barton, the CEO of McKinsey and Company, has stressed on the need to unlock the potential of women in India if we want to close the gender gap.  "Women contribute only 17% of India's GDP today, and comprise only 24% of the workforce — compared with 40% globally. If India were to match the progress towards gender parity of the fastest improving country in its region, for example, it could add $700 billion to its GDP in 2025.

It is vital that we increase the economic opportunities for women. Concerted action can make this happen, including closing gender gaps in education; lowering barriers to job creation in tourism, healthcare, and manufacturing; further strengthening legal protections for women; and improving infrastructure to address the high burden of routine domestic work, childcare, and elder care on women.”

Susan Bulkeley Butler, author, motivational speaker, CEO of The SBB Institute for the Development of Women Leaders, has experienced first-hand how men can help women succeed. “I got my first job at Arthur Andersen thanks to the foresight of a male professor at Purdue and others who realized that getting the job done right didn’t depend on gender. Fourteen years later, when I was named the first female partner of Andersen Consulting — now known as Accenture — it was also because of the forward-thinking actions of many male partners,” she wrote in an article.

 Butler says men hold 95 percent of the CEO positions and about 85 percent of all executive positions. The Fortune 500 companies and women cannot advance without the support of the men. Having men in this conversation is imperative.

“Throughout my career and my life advocating for women’s equality in the workplace, I’ve come to realize something: Gender equality for women cannot happen without men,” she wrote.

Change can start right here. Right now. CEOs and corporate leaders in India can push for greater diversity in their organizations. A statement from a leader can create ripples across industries. Flexible work hours, work from home opportunities, telecommute and mentoring programs are great ways to say, “We value you and your work”. TCS and State Bank of India have re-worked their maternity policies and allow flexible hours at work, along with the option to work from home. 

UN Goodwill Ambassador, Youth Icon and tennis player Sania Mirza believes “Equality depends on each and all of us. From the government that changes its laws, to the company that advances equal pay and equal opportunity, to the mother and father who teach their daughter and son that all human beings should be treated equally, to the athletes who demonstrate equality and excellence.” The time to act is now.

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Debjani Ray
Debjani Ray is a rebel in her quiet way. She loves reading, binge watching movies, and likes to think of herself as a writer. Her most significant body of work is an argumentative eight-year-old who keeps her on her toes.

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