When I look back on the last 100 years it's really incredible to see how far we've come in terms of advancing gender equality. And yet, it always amazes me when I see how far we still have to go, especially in the West. I often catch myself reading or experiencing sexism and thinking, "Really? In the 21st century?" It's hard to believe we're still so far from "normal" when we have everything in our hands to end it.
For decades, women have been raising the issue and fighting for equality. But the statistics speak for themselves: For all the hard work and relative successes, when we look at senior executives in global companies, women still only account for 24%, up from 21% in 2012 and unchanged from 2007 (the financial crisis was particularly hard on women). Globally, 33% of businesses have no women in senior management at all, as the latest Grant Thornton International Business Report shows.
What's even more shocking is that developed markets, which often pride themselves on their liberalism, frequently under perform emerging market peers. In contrast to Eastern Europe and ASEAN, and despite considerable efforts by governments and campaigners to increase female leadership in business, the G7 falls well below the global average. Across these major economies just 22% of senior roles are held by women, a modest improvement on the 18% measured in 2012. Alarmingly, 39% of G7 businesses have no women in senior management.
New Zealand, the first country to give women the vote, today only has women in 19% of senior leadership positions. Germany is a shocking 15% below India's 16% and not far above United Arab Emirates, which was at 11% in 2013.
Some men have joined the debate and support initiatives around diversity and inclusion. And yet, ironically, many of those discussions still happen within men-only panels. At this year's WEF meeting in Davos "only 23% of the speakers and moderators were women, and 20% of the panelists. However, the word "women" was the third-most tweeted topic at the conference", according to the BBC. But all of these "talks" and all of the criticism have done little to change things.
So this month, five of Australia's most booked male conference speakers decided to act: They announced they will boycott panels that don't include women, criticising organisers for taking the lazy way out by opting for "dude fests".
Those who know me know I'm all about helping to create the world I want to live in, and I find inequality (whether pertaining to income, gender or other) particularly offensive and worth actively fighting to redress. And not just because I think it's fair and the right thing to do; our economies need women to work, and our companies need the workforce numbers and the diverse thinking in order to innovate and thrive.
If you're like me, here's what you can do (and I invite all genders to do so) to help. When invited to speak at an event, if you’re not willing to make your participation conditional on inclusion, at least respond to invitations by asking, “Before I confirm, would you tell me the percentage of women you expect as speakers and attendees?” Let them know that there’s demand.
You can also join the "No thanks, mate" list of speakers will not appear on any panel that comprises solely of men. And here are some other tips on how to avoid all-male panels. Please submit examples of #allmalepanels to this tumblr blog.
And do please share below as comments below any other great examples of how men and women are making the changes they want to see in the world happen. For me this journey started in earnest in 2013 after reading Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and realizing that change would not come from ignoring the issue. What about you?
Let's make gender inequality a thing of the past!