With such an attractive opportunity presented to private companies, will SDG 5 (gender equality) be the first to be achieved by 2030? Well if you are like me and you got optimistic seeing this figure, I have some bad news for you. To close the gender equality gap, it is going to take us more than 200 years! Okay, but are we making progress in reducing the gender gap? Unfortunately, we are not. In fact, these last couple of years, progression has been in reverse.
With these facts in mind, it comes with no surprise that not a single country in the world is close to achieving gender equality. Good progress has been made on improving women health and education. However, other critical issues such as equal pay, economic opportunity, political empowerment, etc. are still very much lagging.
So, what gives? There is a clear opportunity for businesses and public organizations, but we are nowhere closer to solving the problem. In today’s Davos 2020 conference, at the UN Global Compact lounge Anita Bhatia (Deputy Executive Director, UN Women) said that gender equality is the most complex issue to solve. The reason for its complexity comes from the point that it cuts across many major issues – health, politics, innovation, economic growth, climate change, etc. Addressing gender equality means addressing many of these issues parallelly. To put it lightly, this will naturally make things complicated.
The second major issue is that our society has always followed a patriarchy system. Moving away from this will require a fundamental re-think of our society. A systemic change is needed. I don’t need to tell you that no one will easily give up power. To foster this change, Anita Bhatia firmly believes this is an area private companies can get involved. She suggests that private companies should take investment risks the public sector will or cannot. Adding on to this, businesses will need to support women role models and champions to help them achieve the agenda.
We can no longer ignore and exclude women from any form of decision making progress. It is evident that gender equality has the potential to solve other sustainability issues in tandem. If we want to reverse the backwards trend of SDG 5, we will need private companies to be more active. We only have 10 years to achieve the SDG, but we all know how businesses love deadlines.