Last updated on Mar 15th, 2021 at 09:17 am

“Progress made over the last few decades in gender equality is at risk of being rolled back due to the impact of COVID-19. But the pandemic has also forced us all to think differently and given us the opportunity to re-build better – without the power imbalances and gender discrimination of the past.’’ –  Anita Bhatia, UN Women Deputy Executive Director, quoted at the P&G and UN Women #WeSeeEqual Summit 2021.

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Over the past year, McKinsey1 reported that while women comprise 39% of the global workforce, they account for 54% of job losses over the pandemic period.

In a recent interview Melinda Gates went as far as to call the pandemic “an emergency for women’’.

While Covid-19 regressing progress in gender equality was a central theme for the third Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) and UN Women #WeSeeEqual summit, the focus was on what we, as a collective society, can do to keep moving forward.

Outcomes from the Summit – which brought together leading voices on Gender Equality to challenge the current discourse and commit to the actions needed for progress – included practical solutions on how to advance progress in this area.

1.     Actively promoting gender equality at senior levels

Women in positions of power can act as mentors and role models for the next generation and ensure better representation at all levels of decision making. P&G President for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Magesvaran Suranjan emphasised the importance of this, reaffirming P&G’s commitment to achieving a 50-50 gender balance across its management workforce across the region within the next two years, a goal they are well on their way to achieving.

2.     Introducing equal parental leave policies

Employers can assist by providing equal parental leave to empower parents to share responsibility – such as P&G’s new Share the Care policy extending paternal leave options to two months. Introducing flexibility and an output-not-hours outlook would also make a dramatic difference.

3.     Fostering financial inclusion

The pandemic has shifted the paradigm when it comes to working from home. This could present incredible opportunities for more women to be included in the workplace, providing there’s adequate childcare support and improved digital access.

4.     Supporting women-owned enterprises

The pandemic has also prompted the rise of a thriving start-up culture. Corporates can make a big difference by following P&G’s example and deliberately working with women-owned enterprises. The company has pledged to invest USD$200 million with women-owned businesses by 2025.

5.     Turning and pulling

Tremendous things can happen when women lift other women up. Alex Keith, CEO P&G Beauty, shared her ‘turn and pull’ philosophy. “When you get through to a position of influence, you turn and pull the women behind you.”

6.     Changing attitudes and addressing unconscious bias

We need a global attitudinal shift. Empowering more women to work for fair pay is socially and economically beneficial for everyone. Advertising can play a big part. As one of the world’s largest advertisers companies like P&G have a responsibility to use their voice and spend wisely. For example, its Share the Load campaign – which encourages Indian families to teach sons to share household chores. Prior to the campaign, 79% of men thought all chores were for women. Now, that’s changed to 41%.

7.     Preparing the next generation of women

At grass root level we need to ensure girls receive an adequate education and instil confidence in them moving forward. During the summit P&G declared its intention to continue growing its Always and Whisper ‘Keeping Girls in School Programme’ to reach more than 30 million adolescent girls cross the region over the next three years, with a commitment to reach 125 000 girls through the programme in South Africa alone.

 

Notes

1 https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/covid-19-and-gender-equality-countering-the-regressive-effects