International Women’s Day 2021



woman viewing laptop screen

The world has made unprecedented advances, sending a robot to explore the surface of Mars, and  creating vaccines to end a pandemic. Despite this, no country has achieved gender parity. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, full economic parity is 257 years away!

This year’s International Women’s Day, (8 March)  IWD2021 campaign focuses on #choose to challenge – starting with creating awareness, and calling out gender bias and inequality.

“It’s important to acknowledge women’s achievements, to address issues that are restricting the acceleration of gender parity, and to focus on solutions to remediate the situation,” says Kennedy Ndlovu, Executive Director, Boston Education Trust.

The Trust supports Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE), which aims to realise South Africa’s full economic potential by enabling all South Africans to play their part in growing our economy. “It is incumbent upon those who have the means to support transformation, and to comply with both the spirit and the content of the B-BBEE Act & Codes of Good Practice. The Boston Education Trust is focussed on the advancement of Black Females, Black Youth and the Disabled, by supporting them in studies in Information Technology and Communications” says Ndlovu.

While South Africa has made progress towards equality, there is still a long way to gender parity.  For example, even though women make up over half of the population in South Africa, they remain under-represented in positions of authority. They comprise 32% of the Supreme Court of Appeal judges, 31% of advocates, 30% of ambassadors and 24% of executive heads of state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Men hold 68% of all senior management positions, women hold 32% of executive positions.

Gender parity setbacks of COVID-19

A Mckinsey analysis shows that women’s’ jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable during Covid-19 than men’s jobs. Women make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses as of May 2020. 

With Covid-19, women have borne the brunt of the economic impact. “Pink collar” jobs were impacted by lockdown restrictions. The nature of work remains significantly gender specific, with women and men tending to cluster in different occupations. Women are disproportionately represented in sectors negatively affected by the Covid-19 crisis, such as accommodation and food service.

“Setbacks in work force participation and income, impacts on pensions and savings will have  long-term implications for women’s economic security far down the road,” says Ndlovu.

Solutions:  Ndlovu provides insights into key areas:  

  • Education

Investment in education from corporates, educational institutions, and government will provide opportunities for women to gain skills and knowledge in areas which are typically male dominated. The Boston Education Trust was established by Boston City Campus in order to increase the number of black female IT graduates.

  • Challenging current infrastructure

Mckinsey’s previous research on the impact of long-term automation trends on work concluded that, worldwide, 40 million to 160 million women—7 to 24 percent of those currently employed—may need to transition across occupations by 2030 as automation transforms the nature of work. 

  • Gender Pay Gap

The ‘gender pay gap’ is the difference between the average wages of men and women, regardless of their seniority. ‘Equal pay’ is about ensuring that there are no unjustified pay differences between employees who perform ‘work of equal value’.

  • Business and workplace

Assess internal culture and behaviour which contribute to the underlying problem. Organisations should identify and better understand how to attract, develop, and retain female talent at all levels. 

  • Overcoming Bias

Unconscious discrepancies have been inculcated in society for both males and females in terms of which gender is better suited for different types of work and thinking. Girls need to be taught from an early age about their potential beyond cultural and social stereotypes.

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist, nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."  So, do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women.  Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

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