Women’s place in leadership has come a long way. Launched in 1995 and endorsed by 189 states, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action provided a framework for governments to create policies with the aim of empowering women and girls to ultimately guarantee gender equality. It also asserted women’s right to partake in politics, stating that it was crucial for creating a more “transparent and accountable government” to ensure societal progress. Moreover, Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 emphasizes the importance of gender equality. The goal involves ending “discrimination against all women and girls” as well as eliminating gender-based violence, amongst other initiatives. In spite of these efforts, however, women remain underrepresented and excluded from decision-making processes.
Women’s Leadership in Statistics
When looking at the numbers, the percentage of women receiving education outnumbers that of men. From 2000 to 2018, for instance, women’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for tertiary education increased from 19% to 41% whilst men’s GER only rose from 19% to 36%. Furthermore, almost two-thirds of undergraduate degrees in the US are obtained by women, with a similar overall trend seen in Europe.
Why then do women continue to be restricted from decision-making processes? In the workforce, for example, women’s participation rate is “just under 47%” compared to men’s 72%. On the leadership level, women are even less visible. Although New Zealand first granted women the right to vote in 1893, the UN found that, as of late 2021, only 26 women in 24 countries are currently leading their country. When it comes to companies, women make up a mere 5% of the CEOs of the companies listed under the Fortune 500 in 2015.
What is Stopping Women from Stepping into Positions of Power?
One significant factor that limits women from becoming leaders is gender roles. Women often bear the brunt of unequal family responsibilities such as managing their household and caring for their families. In turn, this takes time away from women which limits their ability to develop their skills and advance in their careers. Moreover, stereotypically male attributes such as being aggressive, decisive, and assertive are often associated with the qualities of a leader. On the contrary, the perception of women as the opposite further restricts them from realizing their potential as leaders.
The Importance of Having Women Leaders
Having more women in leadership positions has been proven beneficial. For example, a study found that, as CEOs, women were likelier to “champion diversity practices and equity issues.” Research on projects headed by women indicates greater success and “better financial performance” whilst maintaining an empathetic and supportive leadership style.
How Does Center For Girls Promote Women’s Leadership?
At Center For Girls Foundation (CFGF), empowering women to become leaders is one of our main goals. The Women For Change project was launched in an effort to increase awareness of gender equality and women’s rights in Chiang Khong. Under this program, women attended workshops and training that helped hone their leadership skills prior to joining the Women for Change Network and the Mae Ying Chiang Khong Council. This council provides a platform for women to work towards advancing progress in Chiang Khong’s economy, agriculture, and environment, amongst other areas.
Although the Women For Change project ended in December 2020, the Social Empowerment For Gender Equality project is working with the Mae Ying Council with similar goals. By incorporating Chiang Khong’s community of leaders, its local government, men, and women into the projects, CFGF hopes to create policies that would ensure greater gender equality and alleviate gender-based violence.
– Isabelle Amurao
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