HeForShe, the United Nations’ campaign that calls upon men to step up for gender equality, recently published a report that highlighted the progress that is taking place around the world in achieving gender parity in representation. The findings reflected promising momentum toward equality, emphasizing the responsibility that we all have if we want to build more equitable societies.
The HeForShe 2019 Impact Report found that while there is still a wage gap between men and women, businesses, universities, and other entities that participate in the initiative have contributed to a dynamic shift in gender parity in terms of representation in senior leadership positions. For example, the board of Unilever went from consisting of 36 percent women to 50 percent in just four years, while Vodafone jumped from 27 percent to 42 percent.
Even the UN has been an active participant in increasing representation at top levels of the organization. “At the United Nations, we are now almost at gender parity among our senior leadership and among those who lead our teams around the world,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out in the report, emphasizing the organization’s commitment to leading by example as well as through their research initiatives.
The report also zoomed in on how policymakers are mobilizing for this initiative. The leaders of nine countries contributed their own input to document how their administrations have been working toward gender equality. President Sauli Niinistö of Finland shared how, since 2015, the number of shelters for victims of domestic violence has increased by 67 percent, nearly doubling the shelters’ overall capacity for families. Malawi President Arthur Peter Mutharika wrote about the 20,000 child marriages that have been annulled since 2015 as the country works toward halving the prevalence of child marriage, an institution that has a strong correlation with whether a female becomes a victim of violence, has access to education and can survive motherhood.
In a bit of a contrast to the HeForShe report, Time Magazine and Equality Can’t Wait published a poll last week that found that American men might benefit from taking part in a similar campaign. For example, despite most men in the survey being aware that gender inequality exists, one in four felt that “the country doesn’t need to take any steps to fight gender inequality.” Some of this may be due to the fact that men may not truly comprehend how deep or significant disparities are between the sexes; less than two-thirds reported believing that there is a gender pay gap, compared to 86 percent of the survey’s female respondents.
Clearly, if we want to make strides in achieving gender equality at the national level, men are going to have to recognize how important and relevant their contributions are as allies, well beyond fighting for equal pay.