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Towards an Enabling Global Environment: Accelerating women leadership and empowerment

Towards an Enabling Global Environment: Accelerating women leadership and empowerment

Though gender equality between women and men is a fundamental right, women around the world still face challenges in achieving leadership positions based on discrimination, social stereotypes, and violence. Panelists at the session on ‘Towards an Enabling Global Environment: Accelerating women leadership and empowerment’ at the World Sustainable Development Summit 2021 discussed ways to overcome the structural barriers that hinder women’s progress. They also delved into the importance of building more inclusively in the post-pandemic world, which has severely impacted gender equality.

In his welcome remarks, Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General, TERI, said, “I believe that a country’s progress is measured on the basis of how effective women are in decision-making at various levels be it home, corporate or national. In India, women's representation in the workforce remains dismal, despite the parity achieved in educating our girls. We must ask the question, where is it that we are going wrong?”

In her special address, Ms Karen Klimowski, Acting Deputy Mission Director, USAID/India, said, “Now more than ever, we need to dedicate our energies to create a sustainable world where women are at the core of that effort. India represents a unique mix of tradition culture and innovation. Indian women are leading across economic spheres, it is an achievement that needs to be bolstered further to ensure future growth remains inclusive. Investing in women’s education and empowerment can help eradicate poverty, build vibrant economies, and unlock human potential on a transformational scale.”

Chairing the panel discussion, Vaishali Sinha, Chief Sustainability Officer, ReNew Power Pvt Ltd and Co-Chair, SAWIE, said, “Statistics are disheartening not only for young female aspirants, but also those who are in leadership positions. Despite being 48% of the country’s population, women contribute only 17% to India’s GDP. About 85% of them are employed in the informal sector, which is not even covered by labour laws or social security measures. As the world begins to recover from the pandemic that impacted women disproportionately, we have to build back, build green and, most importantly, build inclusively. It's about time that we walk the talk on women empowerment.”

Presenting a global perspective, Dr Mukesh Aghi, President and CEO, USISPF, said, “From wages to safety, there is structured discrimination across organisations and top emerging economies. An IMF study of 189 economies shows that 104 of them still have laws that restrict women from working in certain sectors; 50 did not have laws for sexual harassment at the workplace; and 18 of them had laws which allow husbands to prevent their wives from working. The increasing digital divide between men and women, as almost 3.9 billon of them don’t have access to the internet, is also a grave concern.”

Dr Irene Giner-Reichl, President, Global Forum for Sustainable Energy, said, “The pandemic has threatened the progress of all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG-5 (gender equality) as the lockdowns further increased wage disparity and even digital access for women. We need to build back but build better. The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and SDG target 5.5 rightly calls for ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.”

On building an effective gender inclusive culture at the workplace, Ms Sheebu David, CHRO, GE South Asia & GE Renewable Energy Onshore Wind APAC & China, said, “Everybody wants to do the best, but so much of it is just initiatives that after a point it start falling. Every organisation has to have a structured approach to change things at their end. Our biggest lesson at GE is that rather than being anecdotal and sporadic, our approach must be scalable and sustainable. Inclusivity has to be co-created and made a ‘way of work’ to bring about a culture change.”

Ms Anita Marangoly George, Executive Vice President, Deputy Head- CDPQ Global, CDPQ India, said, “The only way to make a change is to not accept status quo. We need to address the structured hurdles that women face for wanting to work in certain sectors such as energy and infrastructure.”