Needs of women must be recognised to advance global gender equality, international forum told

Needs of women must be recognised to advance global gender equality, international forum told

Stereotypes and a lack of financial support are holding women back from reaching an equal footing with men in the workplace, a global discussion on International Women’s Day was told.

Female participation in academia, media, politics and business in the digital age is changing but the needs of women need to be recognised to enable gender equality, the panellists urged in the Innovation, Change and Education debate.

The hour-long debate was held from the offices of the Evening Standard, in parallel with similar discussions in Sweden, Jordan, Pakistan and London, as part of the 5th Athena40 Global Conversation on how to engage highly impactful women in the world in leadership roles in a digitalised world.

The debate from the Evening Standard offices was moderated by Dawn Alford, the Executive Director of the Society of Editors.

Bella Evidente, Senior Advisor of Humanitarian Affairs and International Development at the United Nations, highlighted that the goal to reach gender equality had still not been reached, and although progress in countries where quotas are set to help women break into positions of power was good, action on the matter is lacking globally.

Science and Technology are sectors in which the participation of women remains low, the discussion was told.

Women need to be given training and their needs taken into account to reach leadership roles, said Judith Diment MBE, Coordinator Polio Eradication Advocacy Task Force.

She added that women needed to be given training to pass through selection panels in politics as there are not enough women in Parliament but for this to happen, politics needed to become family-friendly and remove obstacles such as in childcare to initiate change.

For this, Ms Evidente said men could play an integral role in empowering women by creating an “enabling environment”.

But the panel said gender diversity was most crucial in interviewing and corporate boards, which remain male-dominated, as funding in the education sector targeted at bringing women to the table on decision-making leadership roles, is a key part of diminishing gender disparities.

Ros Russell, Evening Standard editor of Let Girls Learn global reporting series, who has also worked as a foreign correspondent at Reuters news agency, highlighted that the divide in the digital age was no longer gender-based but generational as women are now taking up technical roles.

The debate was part of the 5th ATHENA40 Global Conversation (ATHENA40)
The debate was part of the 5th ATHENA40 Global Conversation (ATHENA40)

Caroline Gammell, Assistant Editor at The Independent, said that though “promising examples” are emerging of women working behind the camera in journalism to cover stories of global signifcance, such as in Ukraine, the gender-divide remains pervasive. She agreed the younger media landscape was changing and some “strongholds” for women in the media exist, as she emphasised the need for “big voices”.

On gender parity, Ms Gammell said diversity in age and race was improving, but support for minority ethnic and female reporters on social media is important.

The debate highlighted climate change reporting as being where women’s voices were most heard, and effort is being made to showcase female climate activists.