#EmbraceEquity in 3 Steps

As we celebrate International Womens’ Day in 2023, we continue to reflect on the centuries of cemented biases, to injustices, to discrimination, that women have been and go through.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) states that women are paid 20% less than men, with the ILO calling for state and organisational level reforms for systemic change in order to bridge the gap.

Within Asia, efforts towards financial inclusion are underway but it took the COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate the emergence of Digital Financial Services (DFS) that could reach newer markets and market segments. Research and thought leadership continues to stress the need for an intersectional understanding in order to truly #EmbraceEquity so that solutions ensure the inclusion of women in all aspects of life. In celebration of IWD 2023 and in keeping with this year’s theme, here are three dimensions we should be mindful of everyday to move towards embracing equity.

1. Representation vs Participation

Gender Diversity Reporting is crucial to organisations to understand inclusion. As organisations align to ESG and UN SDG Frameworks, we continue see to headway in gender diversity reporting. While this cements the need for representation of women in organisations, very little could be said of the paradox of participation of women in organisations. The Women in Workplace report states that women are switching jobs at a record rate to leave for other companies as current work cultures continue to be prohibitive to growth or provide little to no opportunity for meaningful participation.

2. Compensation vs Recognition

In our efforts towards gender equality, we continue to strive for equal pay, mandatory pay disclosures and bridging the gender pay gap. The UN forecasts that it would take just over 2 centuries to bridge the gender pay gap. However, this data is mostly centred around compensation decisions in the direct labour force where gender stands out as the prominent factor for discrimination in pay decisions. While we have made strides in levelling the playing field, recognition for women in the indirect and care economy remains largely undiscussed and unaddressed. The same UN report highlights that globally, women earn 77 cents to the dollar while women carry out 2.5 times more unpaid work than their men. The disparities are stark, as we continue to compensate using singular one-dimensional approaches, without recognising the roles women play socially based on centuries of cemented biases and social expectations.

3. Structural Reforms vs Allyship

Global development agencies, as the third sector, have been partnering with governments and the private sector to champion structural reforms to address

inequalities aggressively in the past 30 years. While these efforts have been lauded for addressing challenges to women empowerment globally, the realities on the ground are often different. In their implementation, the horizons of change are often slow, met with criticism and may not have local relevance. The cardinal challenge we see here, is that organisations are solution focused instead of being problem focused and eradicating the problem systematically would be a step closer to the solution. To battle these challenges, the greatest step we can take to #EmbraceEquity would be to champion allyship within efforts, guided by understanding challenges on the ground. Allyship presents solutions that have shorter horizons of change, helps amplify voices of women and helps drive participative solutions through everyday actions.

Concluding Thoughts

To #EmbraceEquity, we need to rethink, recentre and rebalance our existing systems, structures and thinking. Embracing equity is about everyday acts of inclusion that lead to change and will break vicious cycles which leads to creating rebalanced societies. Effectively, this means that representation doesn’t add value if women are not allowed to participate and that compensation decisions are not linear, but multidimensional. However, to make all this possible we need to reframe our privilege to drive allyship, amplify voices and understand that to #EmbraceEquity is to provide the right kinds of access, irrespective of differences.


About the Author: Dimuthu de Silva, Head of Consulting & Training, Community Business