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Heading towards gender equality. Changes in corporate culture and legislation

Miami
The COVID-19 crisis unevenly affected working women. What is the value of understanding women’s needs for their development at work and continuing to take care of their families?

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The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), an international cooperation organization that works to improve economic and social policies, recognizes that equality for women in both aspects is a prerequisite for sustainable development. Considering that half of the planet’s population are women, it is easy to agree with this.

In the seventh issue of the annual series The World Bank, studies titled “Women, Business and the Law 2021” * measures laws and regulations that affect women’s economic opportunities in 190 countries. The interim president for the World Bank, Cristiana Georgieva, said at the beginning of this study: “Gender equality is a critical component for the economy’s growth.”

The study was structured around eight indicators: mobility, workplace, salary, marriage, maternity, pension, investment, and entrepreneurship during 2019 and 2020. Only 90 economies demand equal remuneration for men and women for equivalent work. Only 27 countries have implemented reforms that aim at equal opportunity among the eight mentioned indicators.

This information coincides with the OECD in that achieving gender equality requires political activism that causes legislative changes since the proper legislation can positively affect women’s lives.

The World Bank has been monitoring the advances and legal changes that affect work and gender equality. The last decade shows that Belgium, France, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden are the only countries where women reach parity in work and life conditions. However, hardly ten years ago, no legislation granted women and men the same legal rights.

Another study carried out by UN Women, Facts and Figures: Economic Empowerment, confirms that when the number of employed women increases, economies grow and, when the participation disparity in the labor force between men and women decreases, economic growth is accelerated. In other words, the economic empowerment of women is also good business.

Most of the jobs women take up, such as domestic workers, jobs with low productivity, nearly all receive low pay and no benefits in the informal sector.

The pandemic has both exposed and increased gender inequality globally.

The Human Development Report, 2012, details that women spend at least one to three hours a day more than men looking after their home and family; and one to four hours less in market activities **. It is the woman who mainly bears the burden of health and social services. Women spend a lot more hours than men doing unpaid housework. *** More than 2 million women in the United States are unemployed as a result of COVID-19. Although the unemployed male population also increased, it is smaller in numbers than the female population and the population of color.

 The World Bank has been monitoring the advances and legal changes that affect work and gender equality. The last decade shows that Belgium, France, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden are the only countries where women reach parity in work and life conditions. However, hardly ten years ago, no legislation granted women and men the same legal rights. 

Pre-pandemic statistics reflect that 43% of professional women in this country quit their job when they decide to have children. Should a woman have to choose between being a professional and being a mother? Before the pandemic, companies offered to women who want to have a family were not optimal opportunities either. The solution will come with legislation that protects women’s rights.

In Europe, maternity leave days range from 90 days up to a year, without risk of losing your job, and daycare for children starts at 12- 24 months of age, free of charge, and with many other benefits. The United States is not at the same level that European countries. In the US, women employed in companies with fewer than 50 employees have no maternity leave. Two out of five women do not qualify for maternity leave, contributing to the inequality gap between men and women.

Paternity leave in the United States leaves a lot to be desired as well. A 2017 study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only 13% of private industry employees have access to paid family leave (PFL), making it the only developed country that does not offer this benefit to its citizens.

In January 2021, 50 prominent women and men across the country signed the proposed Marshall Plan For Moms. This plan for women to get back to work offers equal wages, paid family leave, accessible childcare, and schools’ reopening five days a week.

Nonetheless, changes are needed in the country’s legislation so that private companies also change their culture to be more empathetic towards women.

The Mom Project is a proposal whose founder, Allison Robinson, points out that it is suitable for families, businesses, and everyone if women have good work terms. The project has 300,000 members in its network, 2,000 affiliated companies and dedicates to offering positions to women who wish to return to the workforce after childbearing; it allows companies to develop a corporate culture that supports women’s needs.

In February of this year, The Mom Project sponsored the panel Moms Success Factor: How Moms make Workplaces better, in which women-professionals-mothers participated. Executives Elizabeth Spector Louden, Etsy, D’Yanna Craighead, Disney, Smita Pillai, Zendesk, Rebecca Henderson, and Randstad, shared their experiences on how to maneuver careers and family at the same time. They expressed that companies’ cultures must change to one that defends, protects, and provides women with tools to be efficient as a worker and as a mother.

A new trend is beginning to appear in some companies, most of them in technology like Google and IBM, where among their benefits are offered 14 to 20 weeks of maternity leave for women and an average of 7 weeks for men, rooms for employee-mothers in the offices, financial assistance for legal adoption expenses and fertility treatments. Have these innovative companies realized that this is the politically correct thing to do, or can they already recognize the unique needs that women have to continue to contribute and increase the companies’ success?

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