Rosanna Duncan l Palladium - Mar 08 2022
Reflections on International Women’s Day: Gender Equality for Sustainability

Dr. Rosanna Duncan, Palladium Chief Diversity Officer

Each year on International Women’s Day, we’re asked to celebrate the achievements of women while acknowledging that there is still much work to be done to accelerate equity for women around the world.

This year is no different. But I’m heartened in the shift this year in looking towards the future and acknowledging the important role women have to play in building a more sustainable and equitable future for everyone. We see this reflected in our projects around the world; when you empower women, you’re more likely to build stronger communities, businesses, and eventually societies.

The UN has put forth the theme “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” which for me boils down to the numbers. If you want to build more sustainable organisations, economies, and societies, it’s going to take a lot longer to do this if you exclude almost half the population. This of course, is over-simplifying things.

It’s about amplifying all voices and bringing them to the table to discuss their unique perspectives and views, it’s about ensuring that women and girls’ lived experiences are considered when we make plans and look forward to the future.

This is also connected to the importance of breaking down biases, overcoming stereotypes, and eliminating discrimination. Breaking down biases that will facilitate greater involvement of women and bring more women to the table is critical to building a more sustainable future. When I think about a sustainable tomorrow, I think about building resilient businesses and economies as well as tackling the climate crisis, and these two elements go hand-in-hand.

We know that organisations that have a diverse workforce perform better, and those companies that ignore adopting practices that promote diversity and break down bias in the future may struggle to create businesses as sustainable as their competitors. If organisations don’t utilise all of their talent and recognise the importance of different lived experiences, they will struggle to find innovative and sustainable solutions.

The same goes for tackling the climate crisis. Disproportionately around the world, women and girls are more affected by climate change than men. And if we don’t bring their voices to global conversations around adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change, why even have them?

But we also need to be considerate of the diversity of the women and girls we bring to the discussion, ensuring that we look beyond gender and take an intersectional approach will ensure those who need to be at the table (in particular those who have been left out for too long), are included.

Women are not a homogenous group, nor should they be treated as such if we expect to move the needle towards a more equitable and sustainable future. Overlooking the characteristics that intersect gender can make the discussion easier, but ultimately less effective and less likely to elicit real change.

Conversations that are gender focused but ethnically and socio-economically neutral enable us to unwittingly batch the lived-experiences of all women together and convince ourselves that progress is happening, when in reality, it’s only happening for some.

As soon as we all start listening, we’ll begin to build more sustainable futures for everyone.

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