“Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility.” — Ban Ki-moon (Former UN General Secretary)
Let me start with a disclaimer, I am a self-proclaimed “Humanist”; I believe in the rights of all humans. We should work on advancing the rights of all genders.
With that being said, I also want to disclose again that I went to a women’s college in New York- Marymount College which is part of Fordham University in New York. I learned a lot about women history of course, yet what I realize is that it made me understand on an intrinsic level why gender equality is relevant and how we shortchange the world when we view ensuring that the world is balanced to be a feminist witch hunt against men.
Gender equality isn’t a surreptitious movement that’s anti-men, nor is it a us against them situation. It’s a chance to boost the potential of each and every one of us to drive economies forward, to create a society where we are all seen as people irrespective of our gender. It’s a possibility for us all to progress. And an opportunity we should all take, with both hands.
This morning, I was going through the Whatsapp statuses of friends on my phone and one of them had two contrasting pictures- one was students in medical school and the other were students in Engineering school. The former had a mixture of both genders and the latter was comprised of 100% men. I was taken aback by this depiction because I am an Engineer and this was over 20 years ago, there was a good mix of men & women in my Engineering program in the United States. Same was the case when I started my Engineering program at the University of Port Harcourt before my family relocated for the States. I repeat, this was over 20 years ago and this morning, a Professor at the University of Lagos (Unilag) stated that the proportion in quite a number of Engineering programs are either close to 50:50 or tilt towards having more women in the programs (Petrochemical Engineering, Chemical Engineering.) So I asked myself, why did the poster create that illustration that depicted that women were scared of Engineering professions? And why did the person who posted it mean by his post?
Well, girl you know it isn’t true, women are interested in being Scientists and Engineers.
I deviate from my main premise here- let me get back to it. Raising girls to be all that they can be is of great benefit to society could be proven in all homes; from the time I was a little girl, I was always interested in how things worked. I was always trying to figure out how gadget worked, fixing and tweaking them. My father never said, you are a girl why are you interested in electronics? You should be in the kitchen. Instead, he saw my interest and the value I brought to the family when I figured out the gadgets for all of our use.
I read online today that the economy in the States is Two Trillion Dollars larger ($2,000,000,000,000) than it would’ve been if there weren’t as many women joining the workforce. Now, imagine if the rest of the world doesn’t allow women to join the workforce, imagine all of that lost revenue.
In nations such as ours, the standard of how families live dramatically increases when the women in the home joined the workforce, as there would be more disposable income. The sad thing is, the data shows that male workforce participation surpasses female workforce participation. Women also work more often in spheres where they receive low wages. This is as a result of institutional discrimination and gender biases. This is why there is a concerted effort to get women into careers where there are less of them.
Our goal should be for more women to have the opportunity to work wherever their strengths lie, not where society directs them to go. The idea of vast talent pool is an important reason to me why gender equality is important.
A report by McKinsey stated that if organizations employed women equally, these places would have a more diverse skill set with their profits increasing by 3.5%. I like that math- more gender diversity correlates to increased profit. I postulate that it would also lead to more innovative solutions to the challenges we face in society.
Gender equality is important to me and as we celebrate the International Women’s Day, I will continue to play my part in the fight against inequality.
Adetola Salau; Global Educator / International Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur/ Innovative Thinker/Future Readiness Advocate/ STEM Certified Trainer
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness.