by Ricardo Real Preciado, Humanitas Global
It has been a good month so far for the fight for gender equality. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the historic 1995 Beijing Declaration, the Clinton Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations launched two important events that remind us that “as women thrive, so will humanity.” Women continue to struggle and progress remains slow despite gains during the last two decades. Men have not been invested enough in the fight for equality. We have to change gender stereotypes, understand that gender equality affects everyone and allow women to realize their full potential. Equality means progress for all.
On International Women’s Day earlier this week, the Full Participation Report was launched by the Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This data-driven approach to gender equality shows that since the Beijing Declaration, the status of women and girls has improved significantly, but we’re not there yet! Men have to take an active role in the fight for gender equality to improve quality of life for all.
The project is a comprehensive view of global data on women and girls over the last twenty years that addresses issues such as the gender gap in STEM careers, the disconnect between women’s advancement in school and work, domestic violence and adolescent fertility rates. By exploring the interactive (and nicely presented) data available through the Full Participation Report, we can learn to invest in the areas that interest us the most, from initiatives that have been effective and replicate them in other areas. Young men are already taking action. It’s time to get creative about how to address the identified gender gaps that affect society by using this available information.
A significant problem with gender equality is that generally speaking, men do not yet understand what’s in it for them. At the United Nations 59th Commission on the Status of Women on Wednesday, experts explained that “convincing men that they are as likely as women to benefit from gender equality is the strongest argument to get them involved in reaching that goal.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world to ‘step it up’ to ensure gender equality by 2030. The Secretary-General also told participants that achieving gender equality will require the concerted efforts of the private sector and encouraged businesses supporting Women’s Empowerment Principles. Paternity leave licenses? Yes, please! Laws and policies encouraging men to take paternity leave have increased their participation in family life.
I come from a country plagued with sexism, where men are still having difficulty expressing their feelings and are reluctant to admit their interests in order to not be perceived as “feminine.” Gender stereotypes and “machismo” are robbing men of the ability to openly express themselves and participate in activities, domestic tasks and jobs that are culturally destined to be women-only. Gender equality will help ease economic household burdens as more women enter the workforce. Rejecting stereotypes will end gender segregation in the labor market which remains a problem for both men and women. Seeing mothers with full time jobs that later get home to continue doing household work, while male members enjoy leisure time is unacceptable. Chores at home have to be re-allocated. We need to change these archaic and harmful mentalities in order to progress. It undermines our economies in more ways than we can think possible! As Ban Ki-moon told us, today “truly powerful men are those that advance the empowerment of women.”
So, what’s in it for men? I’m sure family relationships and, subsequently, entire communities and businesses will be strengthened if women use some help at home and are less tired by the end of the day. This is just one example in which you can change. Aim for the 50-50 at home, whether you are male or female, and replicate it throughout all areas of life. The idea of gender equality is not only about feminism, economics or policies: It’s about a better quality of life for all! Let’s work towards a more equal, just and progressive world!