While the movement for gender equality has secured women participation at ballot boxes across the globe, their votes are still in short supply at the world’s decision making tables. An August study found that women hold a disappointing 16.1 percent of board of director seats in the U.S., 5.1 percent in Brazil, 8.5 percent in China, and less than one percent in Japan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The statistics should serve as a startling reminder of who holds the power around the globe — and galvanize the world’s powerbrokers to take a stand.
Instead of standing up, too many men kick back and take a seat, complacent in their majority at the expense of diversity and inclusion (and perhaps even profits — a recent study found that companies with female board members perform significantly better than companies with all-male boards). If gender equality is to be achieved, fair policies, inclusive systems, and ongoing advocacy must come from those who still head and inherit society’s halls of power. As women work to empower themselves and their communities, men have to do their part.
But it’s not just women who’d benefit from a level playing field. The success of the opposite sex is also in men’s best interests, as research shows that leaving girls and women in lower societal standing is a dismal prospect for both genders. A World Bank study recognized that increased job opportunities for women leads to less poverty and faster growth for everyone, including men and children. And limiting women’s participation in the workforce costs the Asia-Pacific region up to $42 billion per year, according to a UN report.