Social equality and women's empowerment: why we still need to celebrate International Women’s Day

Technological advances will change the nature of many jobs and require a fundamental shift in workers’ skill sets, particularly those of women, a new report suggests.

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This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine.
– the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.The workforce of the future will require technological, social and emotional and higher cognitive skills, as demand for traditional working practices falls away and new skills are required, says the McKinsey report, Women and the Future of Work. While women have great strengths overall, they lag men in advanced technological skills and haven’t capture their fair share of leadership positions.“Helping women gain the most valuable new skills -“right-skilling”- and ensuring that they are fairly represented in those efforts will require concerted actions by governments, educational institutions, companies and other public and private institutions,” it says.This Friday sees the celebrate of International Women’s Day, which Relocate Global is marking with a special lunch and discussion morning to highlight ways in which women can collaborate and work together to enhance their skills.

Why do we still need to focus on gender equality?

For many women, work is fulfilling and there are plenty of opportunities for promotion and career development. This is not universally true, however. A McKinsey report with LeanIn.Org last year, Women in the Workplace 2018, found that although companies report that they are highly committed to gender diversity, that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress.“The proportion of women at every level in corporate America has hardly changed,” the authors said. “Progress isn’t just slow. It’s stalled.”Yet the contribution of women could boost world GDP growth by $28 trillion by 2025 if only they were able to participate fully, McKinsey has calculated.International Women’s Day movement champions the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while also making a call to action for accelerating progress towards gender balance in all aspects of life.The World Economic Forum says that studies of economies as varied as Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, and the United Kingdom, suggest that women generally devote more of the household budget to education, health, and nutrition than men.The World Bank found that in Latin America and the Caribbean, women have played a critical role in the decline of poverty, with female labour market income contributing to a 30% reduction in extreme poverty over a 10-year period.
Related articles:Join us for our International Women's Day event in LondonInternational Women's Day: what is it and why should you support it?Authenticity and wellbeing: how can you work towards an inclusive workplace?
On Her Terms: Transforming the lives of girls and young women; an interview with Karin Joseph of the Amos Trust

Gender equality in the workforce leads to successful companies

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, pointed out in a recent speech that companies at the top of the leader board for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. Increasing female employment to the levels of men is worth 35% of GDP.“So, no business can afford to miss a chance to be 21% more likely to outperform on profitability, and our country can’t afford to ignore diversity either,” she says. “So if you take those two arguments, that women have a huge amount to gain from business, and business has a huge amount to gain from women, the intellectual case is clear.”

Women-friendly work environments can benefit anyone who wants work-life balance, even men

Linda Holbeche, an international consultant, developer, researcher and author in the fields of HR, leadership, strategy and change, says that organisations which genuinely promote people on merit are ones that recognise that talent does not appear in single type of package – for example a white male.She says women-friendly working environments – where staff can leave meetings on time in order to pick up children, and important calls are not scheduled at times when women with families are unavailable, can also benefit men who may not be wedded to the long hours culture, and who want a better work life balance.“A women-friendly work environment would be one where women don’t have to choose between their career and their family,” she says. “While younger women have childcare issues, our ageing population means that elder care is just as important for women with elderly parents.”She called for flexibility from employers and a recognition that people, particularly women, had different working requirements at different stages of their life.“While staff at the top who are important and valued have more leverage and may be able to argue for more flexible working, it can be difficult for those who are just staring out on the career ladder,” she explained.Then there is the issue of gender pay, with many women still not paid an equivalent salary to the men doing the same job or role. “Women with families are typically penalised and there is no safety net for those who are trying to juggle many different aspects of their life and may end up burning out.”With a new emphasis on wellbeing at work and the importance of supporting the mental health of employees, it is time for employers to think more deeply about how they treat their staff, particularly women.

What are the causes of depression and burnout?

“Having no work-life balance can lead to depression and burn out,” she says. “Women in certain sectors such as retail and hospitality face real challenges in rising to the top because of the unsocial hours required and the split shifts.”The increase in polarisation in politics means that many of the recent successes won in terms of equality and diversity need to be closely guarded and protection, lest they be swept away under the new administrations, she says.“Things are too volatile for our recent gains to be taken for granted. Women need to collaborate to ensure that there is genuine support for both men and women in the workplace,” she says. “No one else is going to do it, so it is up to us.”Relocate Global’s celebration of International Women’s Day on Friday March 8 will feature a wide range of women from diverse industries sharing their experiences of making change happen. Join our coaches and speakers to hear how nurturing female talent – your own and that of your colleagues – can solve skill shortages, close the gender pay gap and help find the right candidates for international assignments.Linda Holbeche will be speaking at the Festival of Global People 2019, the ideas and solutions festival for people centred international management on Tuesday, 14 May & Wednesday, 15 May 2019 at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London. Now in its second year, the Festival of Global People returns to connect, inspire and support the people behind high performing global organisations. Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory

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