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Gender equality: Having more of us around

By Jens Prebensen, Co-founder of CSR LINK

Diversity Management and SDG 5

Women are not the solution to all the problems in the world – but they are not the reason for them either. UN’s Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 requires gender equality, but how do we accomplish in a world dominated by males such as Putin, Erdogan, Jong-un and Trump?

With the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Climate Agreement, the world community has put its foot down and said: “enough is enough!”. The world’s problems are overwhelming, the disasters plenty, and the risk of the end of mankind imminent.

Since the birth of mankind women has constituted, this is a well-known fact, half of the population. However, in a world dominated by men, women have never stood at the front row once the big decisions had been made. This is what the 5th goal specifically is aiming at. Because it’s time for a change in mindset and finding new solutions.

The male has had its chance, now it’s the female’s turn.

Having more of us around
Recently, while the summer was at its peak, the Copenhagen Business School, CBS, held an invitation-only conference with a long line of highly-rated CSR experts on the participants list and many renowned people amongst the speakers.

While the gender of the participants was fifty-fifty there were two men as guest speakers – Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics Tom Donaldson, University of Pennsylvania, and former chairman of Shell and vice president of Global Compact Sir Mark Moody-Stuart – and men as organizers of the event – Andreas Rasche and Jeremy Moon, both professors at CBS. However, never-the-less the gender composition did not make it likely for equality issues to be on the agenda it turned out to take up quite a bit of the day.

In Question Time after Sir Mark Moody-Stuart had held his key note speak his wife Lady Judy Moody-Stuart who was among the audience, asked him a question about women and their access to the decision making. A little surprised he asked what she had in mind and the answer was as short as it was sharp: “Having more of us around,” said in a silent but insisting voice.

Subsequently, this topic was taken up by another women in the audience, Laura Spence, Professor of Business Ethics at the University of London, praising equality for once was taken up at a CSR event. Strangely, this only seldom happens she could tell.

Later in the panel debate, where there, this should be noted, was equality between the panelists – even though led by a man, Professor Andy Crane, Bath School of Management -, the moderator took up gender equality as his first question to the panel. In her response, Professor Mette Morsing, CBS, emphasized that contrary to the fact that women are well represented within CSR and in the field of research not in any sense left behind the males, there is still a significant overrepresentation of men among the professors. In fact she could tell 81% of the professors are men.

On top of this, Mette Morsing said, there is a tendency to “forget” mentioning the female researchers’ efforts when they cooperate and publish with men. This distorts the impression of women’s contribution to the scientific discourse and quite centrally it shows that even within an area like CSR, where equality ought to be a given thing, there is still far to go.

In a man-dominated world
Being a man I was sitting there wondering what I could do for my part. Well we can for a start withdraw from committees, positions and positions to give space for woman or we can – as often mentioned in the equality debate – put an extra weight on the women’s scale when hiring for new positions.

But isn’t this just reverse sexism through favoring gender? And in it’s essence, does it change anything as long as it’s up to the male to decide whether “he” should should withdraw or favor “her”? This is why the phrase “Having more of us around” is so subtle: it has a double sting by pointing out that it’s the male who should make room for the women. We have to aim for where it’s not just a matter of getting even gender distribution at the positions but where even the decision-making about it is evenly distributed.

The individual struggle
Seen from a historical perspective, it is clear that here in the western world – this is about how far my horizon reaches – there has been no less than a revolution in equality within the past 100, 50, even 30 years. The feminist movement has faded out and taken over by an individual struggle in the homes, at the workplaces, in the institutions and in the media for gender roles, equal payment and equal distribution of powers, and the women are still gaining more territory.

However, despite we have gone a long way and are on the move in the right direction, as made clear at the conference we have still far to go. We have to acknowledge this is not about a quick fix: it is the tough and protracted move making fundamental changes in culture, structure, organization and, not least, a shift away from the male values.

Therefore, with gratefulness for an exciting and in many ways thoughtful conference I urge CBS and other universities to highly prioritize making research into this field as it really would move mountains to get more clarity. And as happened at the conference, let’s get the discussion out in the open and together find the way to unprecedented equality where there are not only fifty-fifty on the chairs but at the front row of those making the decisions, too. The Global Goals requires it – and it is best for all of us.

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