You know what grinds my gears? The phrase, “the future is female.” It is inaccurate, alienating, and not representative of the future that gender parity will achieve. It is time to adopt a more inclusive vernacular that captures the scope of those included in and who stand to benefit by parity: women and men. I get it, the phrase is catchy; but, in terms of cost-benefit, is it worth alienating the very group we need to partner with to shift the social and economic paradigm? No, it is not.
The progress agenda is gender equity, a society that equally values and gives equal opportunities to its men and women. Such a society not only actualizes the fullness of its potential, it is more profitable because it maximizes its human capital resources. A New York Times article shared what happened when Bill Gates went to Saudi Arabia to speak a few years ago. He found himself facing a segregated audience based on gender, of which four-fifths were men. At that time, Saudi Arabia was seeking to become one of the Top 10 countries in technology by 2010. An audience member asked Bill Gates how this goal could be achieved, to which he responded, ‘‘Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.”
We’ll need to collaboratively undo the effects of patriarchy on how women are perceived, and work together to attain equitable representation in leadership and develop organic pipelines to these roles.
Here’s the thing, the gender gap is not simply a social and moral problem, it is an economic issue. Economics affects everyone within a given society. Per a study by McKinsey, advancing women’s equality can increase the global GDP by $12 trillion in the next 8 years. That growth would positively impact all of us, and should be reason enough for us, both men and women, to see that parity is in ALL of our best interests. Of course, making a change will take a collective effort. We’ll need to collaboratively undo the effects of patriarchy on how women are perceived, and work together to attain equitable representation in leadership and develop organic pipelines to these roles. A study done by the Peterson Institute for International Economics showed that participating companies who augmented female leadership from 0 to 30% gained a 15% increase in their net revenue margin. That is NOT an insignificant increase.
From a social perspective, gender parity also benefits men as much as it does women. An article by the European Institute for Gender Equality states, “… men benefit from gender equality as they too face gender-specific issues such as lower life expectancy, bad health, lower education levels and rigid gender norms. It is essential that both women and men are aware of the benefits that gender equality brings to them as individuals and as members of communities and societies. It is also true that we can only succeed through the participation of both women and men.” We are all bond by the rigid expectations placed upon us by society. As a woman, I should unequivocally be perceived as fully capable of effective leadership; as a man, you should be encouraged to explore the full range of your emotions and embrace nurturing behaviors.
We cannot push a progress agenda if we do not include one another in the tactical planning and execution. We are all essential to this movement, and the language needs to reflect that. It is time to amend the rhetoric and have a more collaborative discourse—words are critical to the success of our strategy to move forward together. At the end of the day, this is not a one gender fight—if we are not wise, all of us can become casualties of the society we perpetuate due to our own shortsightedness.