The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting focuses on equality and inclusion, but female delegates make up only 17% of the attendees.
A recent study in Science concludes that seeing female leaders – top decision-makers such as board executives and others – increases career aspirations and educational attainment for young women. It inspires young women to want to advance their careers. Moreover, a gender diverse board sets an example for the rest of the leadership and workforce within the company. It would likely initiate change by itself being the change.
Full gender equality is a prerequisite to societal progress and well-being. It rests on a central pivot – the fundamental principle of unity – that humanity is, in essence, a family, with each of us – whether male or female – as equal members. As such, lasting change will only occur if an unshakeable consciousness grows, resulting in the fundamental transformation in all our attitudes and values, including our governing and consultative institutions.
In other words: the gender gap hurts whole economies.
At the heart of the matter lies the principle of equality. Proof that equality is difficult to attain can probably be seen best when looking at the pay gap of some 15.5% between men and women in full-time work.
Economic research points to the huge implications for the global economy, should the disparity between male and female employment prevail. A report released this week found that economic inequality for women costs the global economy $9tn. And Goldman Sachs research in 2007 found that closing the gender gap in unemployment rates (pdf) would boost gross domestic product by as much as 9% in the US, 13% in Europe and 16% in Japan.
The gender gap in the boardroom is a long-standing and vexing inequality. The business world is only slowly coming to understand that leadership, in essence, is about walking the talk.