Until last week, 2011 seemed to be the year of the empowered female. won the Nobel Peace Prize; not one but two women were appointed to the position of CEO for two of the world’s largest technology brands; the Commonwealth leaders agreed to give girls equal rights to the British throne; and even Beyoncé became the first woman to headline at Glastonbury in the past 40 years.
However, the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report, which launched in New York last week, brought a new take to the picture and underlined that women still fall massively behind in gender equality. Maybe it’s because I was brought-up in the Destiny’s Child era, or perhaps it’s Serbian tenacity kicking in, but in this day and age, how have we not moved forward and why are we still facing such inequalities when there are much more pressing matters that both men and women could resolve by working together as equals?
The report highlighted that women hold fewer than 20 per cent of all decision-making national positions, and little advances in economic and political parity have been made since the first report was published in 2006. The UK, specifically, ranked 33rd for economic participation and opportunity, and the outcome was that more needs to be done by governments and the private sector to support and leverage female successes, and to implement policies to promote women’s economic and political roles.
This was closely followed by the Fawcett Report – A Life Raft for Women’s Equality – which was released on Friday, suggesting that women’s financial security and human rights are “under attack on a scale not seen in living memory due to the coalition’s austerity measures.” Talk about a bleak week.
It certainly set the scene for Theresa May’s announcement at the Royal Commonwealth Society on Friday, where she launched a package of measures that aspires to help women ‘fulfil their potential’ in business, through a £2m scheme that will see 5,000 volunteer mentors trained by next year to become role models for female entrepreneurs. She said, “For too long, as a country, we have failed to make the most of the skills, experience and talents of women and despite the difficult decisions that need to be taken, there is much we can do to make sure that our economy emerges stronger and fairer, and operates in the interests of the working majority.”
It certainly sounds like a step in the right direction, but I wish it was a leap, and a giant one at that. It will certainly be interesting to see what the conclusion is in another five years; whether we’ll have put this one to bed or will it continue to haunt?