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Choosing to challenge on #IWD2021

Since 2017, I have shared a post on International Women’s Day reflecting on an article that I wrote in 2017 about how long it would take for women to earn equal pay for equal work, after my shock from learning about the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex gap. Each year I share findings from the latest WEF Global Gender Gap Report to showcase how things have changed over time. I always go straight to the stats on the overall global gender gap as it confounds me that it still exists even today. Unfortunately, the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2021 hasn’t come out as yet but given all that has happened since #IWD2020, my magic 8-ball guess is the outlook is not so good.

From what I have read since last November, the global COVID-19 pandemic has done a lot of damage in a lot of ways for women. It is estimated that 11 million girls may not return to school as a direct result of the pandemic. And according to the World Bank, the “prevalence of violence against girls and women has increased during the pandemic – jeopardizing their health, safety and overall well-being.”

A report by McKinsey shared an estimate that women’s jobs were 1.8 times more vulnerable due to COVID-19 than those of their male counterparts. While women make up 39% of the global workforce, they also account for over half of overall job losses during the pandemic. This UN Women report from November 2020 highlights that the number of women leaving their jobs or taking reduced hours to take care of their families has gone up. Unpaid care is a big component of gender parity (check out this UN Women interactive site to calculate your average) and it’s so disheartening to see this increase because it may take years for things to balance out – if ever.

Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation. - RBG

Going back to the WEF gender gap… Given the four key areas that the WEF tracks for measuring gender disparities are health, education, economy, and politics – I expect to see the gap increase in 2021. In 2016, the gap was 169 years. By 2020 it had gone down to 99.5 years, however, 'in terms of economic participation, the gender gap will take 257 years to close.' I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this implies that my great great great great great great great great-granddaughters might be the first generation to experience gender parity.

On the bright side, this unprecedented pandemic may be a great catalyst for change. The theme for #IWD2021 is #ChooseToChallenge and I’m all for it. It’s been great to see some amazing women take on unprecedented positions of power such as Kamala Harris and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – to name only a couple of great ladies. As increased female political representation corresponds with an increase of women in senior private-sector jobs, I hope to keep reading about more Whitney Wolfe Herd’s of the world in years to come.

"Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn't be that women are the exception." - RBG

In the meantime, I’ll keep supporting all the amazing women in my life who have already chosen to be challengers. It’s impossible not to be proud of so many of my friends and colleagues who are already making waves in their respective fields. Having friends like Merritt Moore and Julie Schechter – to name only a couple of great ladies – gives me confidence that maybe we can celebrate International Women’s Day next year with a lower gender parity gap and even more women in positions of power, and even more ladies who #ChooseToChallenge.

From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.

Happy #IWD2021!

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