International Women’s Day 2022 will be celebrated on March 8th and the theme for this year is #BreakTheBias. Working in a firm that has, on the whole, had a majority of female employees and working in the business of employment, alongside many women candidates and HR professionals, the quest for women’s equality has always been important for Ellwood Consulting. In 2022, that importance has been elevated by the impact of global events over the previous year. In this blog, we consider some of the strides forward, the steps back and look at ways we can #BreakTheBias in the workplace.
Some 2021 Milestones
Eight countries elected or swore-in their first woman Head of State or Government. First women Presidents took office in Tanzania, Barbados, Honduras, while first women Prime Ministers were appointed in Estonia, Sweden, Samoa and Uganda, with Najla Bouden Ramadhane named as Tunisia’s Prime Minister - the first woman to lead a country in the Arab region
Other notable women in power included Kamala Harris taking office as the first woman Vice President of the United States - notably also the first Black-American and Asian-American in the role – while Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and first African to lead the World Trade Organization
Increased women’s representation globally. During 2021, Albania appointed a record-setting 70% women cabinet, Germany achieved its first gender-equal cabinet, and Iraq and Kosovo exceeded their gender quotas for parliament
Stronger legal positions for women in 2021. Spain strengthened laws around rape, harassment and female genital mutilation. The Higher Islamic Council in Lebanon approved a Family Law amendment that bans the marriage of children under the age of 15 and stipulates that girls must give their consent to marry. Chile elected the world’s first gender-equal constitutional assembly which should help strengthen the country’s laws on equal rights and opportunities
Women leading SARS-CoV-2 research and breakthroughs have included Anika Chebrolu (groundbreaking student Spike protein research), Kizzmekia Corbett (Modena), Katalin Karikó and Özlem Türeci (both BioNtech) – that’s aside from the heavy involvement of women as frontliners throughout the pandemic
Nasdaq’s board policy. A new policy requires any companies publicly traded through Nasdaq, must have at least one woman on their board of directors (in an effort to remedy the 75% of constituent firms that don’t meet that criteria)
Gender representation in Sports. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics (held 2021) had just under 49% women athlete competitors - the most gender-balanced Olympics in history
While many of these highlights may feel to some like small steps, it’s important to remind ourselves of just how far we’ve come in the last 50 years. Before that time, a woman in the US could not:
Get a credit card in her own name. (Co-signatures stopped in 1974)
Be guaranteed that they would not get fired for getting pregnant. (The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978)
Serve on a jury in any of the 50 US States (1973 in all 50 states)
Fight on the front lines (2013)
Get an Ivy League education (Changed in 1969-72, except Colombia - 1983)
Take legal action against workplace sexual harassment (Precedent was set in 1977)
Obtain health insurance at the same monetary rate as a man (discrimination that was outlawed in 2010 but is still often the case)
Take the birth control pill regardless of background and circumstances (1972)
While 2021 had some great highlights, there were also setbacks. For the majority of women, Covid created a new challenges and hurdles.
Parental expectations. Research (by McKinsey) revealed that women were more likely to be required to stop work and care for home-schooling kids, or indeed had to juggle the parenting and homeschooling
Domestic violence against women also increased as global lockdowns ensured women were unable to escape the home and closed doors helped to hide the abuse. A surge in mental problems also likely contributed to this
Overstretched health systemsnegatively impacted health – such as with sexual and reproductive health services, resulting in neglect and an increased risk to women’s health, for example during childbirth
The Taliban is Afghanistan became a very obviously example of backsliding on women’s rights and a lesson in what can become of the hard work and achievements when policies fail. Girls are now banned from attending secondary school, women are unable to continue work, and violence against women is on the rise
While the world has clearly come a long way regarding women’s rights, there is clearly still a lot of work to do. The good news is that gender equality is becoming more and more a part of what we do in our industry on a daily basis. Clients are looking for evidence of gender equality and equal opportunities, both in our own firm and in the work we perform. Corporations are increasingly considering/complying with proactive quotes for women when hiring to ensure greater parity in the workforce – either set by governments or self-imposed. We’re also seeing a larger number of women being elevated to senior leadership positions and there is no doubt that this has a significant knock-on effect, with women influencing the strategic decisions of major firms.
This IWD 2022, we’ll be sitting down as a team at Ellwood Consulting and deciding what we can do throughout the year, in ways both large and small, to #BreakTheBias, and we encourage all our clients and candidates to join us in these efforts.
Let’s #BreakTheBias together.