Sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick makes a convincing case for involving men in the quest for gender equality.
Equality is our birthright. No one should accept anything less. And yet, inequality is everywhere, visible and invisible, deliberate and by default.
As children, fairness is one of the very first judgements we learn to make. Unfairness is something all of us understands. Despite progress on some fronts, the fact remains that women endure various forms of unfairness – discrimination, harassment, violence, marginalisation and exclusion across the globe.
In some places, it may be trafficking, or young girls attacked for trying to attend school, or women not permitted to drive.
In Australia, in 2015, we still see women far less likely to achieve leadership roles – as senior executives, board members, or leading fast-growth companies. Women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man does, and enter retirement with about half the superannuation of their male peers.
And perhaps most disturbingly, Men’s Violence Against Women is a national epidemic. It has already claimed more than 34 women’s lives so far in 2015.
Not only is gender equality the great human rights issue of our time, it is also our greatest economic opportunity. The wealth locked up inside outdated, patriarchal structures around the globe is enormous. Imagine the economic value that would be unleashed if women were afforded the same economic opportunities as men.
Solving for gender inequality is complex.
When I came into my role in 2007, I was firmly of the view that increasing the number of women leaders was a matter of women’s activism, and women working together. Women’s activism is critical to making progress.
But, the fact is that if you look at the levers of power in nations and in organisations, they often rest in the hands of men.
My view now is that continuing to rely on women alone to disrupt the status quo is an illogical approach.
Unless we work with the men in power— and help them move from being merely interested in this subject to taking action—we wouldn’t see the transformative change that is urgently needed. To attain gender equality, we need to focus on men.