Author: Emma Livesey
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a day for reflection and celebration but it also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality.
The global progress of women’s rights is painstakingly slow. Worldwide, on average, women are paid 23 percent less than men1. This is indicative of a wider problem as explained by the president of LeanIn.Org Rachel Thomas:
“Equal pay for women is critical, but the pay gap is only part of a larger problem. Women face an uneven playing field in the workplace: they are less likely to be hired and promoted, receive less support from managers, and get less access to senior leaders.”
In the latest UN report on gender social norms, which contains data from 75 countries, it has been found that 90 percent of those surveyed hold some sort of bias against women2. This is a staggering number showing that not only men but also women have bought into the inequality narrative.
Within the water and sanitation space inequality is also rife. The World Health Organisation has released statistics showing that 72 percent of households rely on women to fetch and haul the family’s water when there is no water source in the home3. Within the municipalities and utilities which provide these services women represent less than 20 percent of the workforce.
There are, however, a lot of victories to celebrate. For example, in January 2020 the chair of ROCKBlue’s board, Mrs Pallansch, was acknowledged as one of the Top 10 Influential Women Of Water in the USA. This was indeed a great honour and as ROCKBlue we are very proud to have her at the helm of our board.
Call to Action
A huge amount still needs to be done in order to reach gender equality goals. Here at ROCKBlue we have created WULUW (Women’s Urban Leadership in Utility WASH) in order to promote women in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. Few leadership roles in this sector are held by women and often cultural and historical obstacles block women from reaching these management positions. Yet, studies have shown that:
- Companies with more women in leadership roles perform better;
- Diverse teams are often more innovative, productive, and have greater profits; and
- Employees on diverse and inclusive teams put in more effort, stay longer, and demonstrate more commitment.
Let’s make 2020 count for women everywhere.
- United Nations Women, “Wage Gap” (Feb 2017), http://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/infographic/changingworldofwork/en/index.html
- United Nations, “Tackling Social Norms: A Game Changer for Gender Inequalities” (2020), http://hdr.undp.org/en/GSNI
- WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water” (June 2015), https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_82419.html