Protect all that we have gained for women, girls and boys around the world
Before a short break for the summer, I wanted to share a message and some key topics that I hope will leave you with something to consider over the summer months.
It is critical that we protect all that we have gained for women, girls and boys around the world and in our own countries.
We should not be afraid to raise our voices, to ensure that governments continue to fund education around the word, maternal health, take note of the damage of climate change and ensure that there are at least 30% of local women at every table. We can only continue to achieve progress with men and women working together.
Enjoy some rest and I look forward to reconnecting with you all in September.
The Power of Working Refugee Women
An analysis from International Rescue Committee & Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security
From Syria to Sacramento, RescueWorks invests in people and communities to enhance the skills, income and financial capabilities of the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Its new new analysis with Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security shows if refugee women are able to harness their full potential, over a trillion pounds in global GDP could be unlocked.
Find out how when women everywhere are paid fairly, we all win.
Why women are central to addressing climate change
Stephenie Foster for Japan Times
When the Group of 20 met last month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put climate change and women’s empowerment on the agenda. While the Osaka Leaders’ Declaration recognized “gender equality and women’s empowerment [as] essential for achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth” and the urgent need to address “complex and pressing global issues and challenges, including climate change,” it did not explicitly link these two policy imperatives.
Why is this important? Globally, these are two of the biggest challenges we face: building a sustainable future and ensuring gender equality, which drives economic growth and prosperity. Climate-induced drought, floods, extreme weather, and food and water insecurity disproportionately impact women due to socio-economic, political, and legal barriers and gender norms. The data is alarming: 80 percent of climate refugees are women. Women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die during a disaster. Women are more vulnerable to mosquito-borne disease when they collect water.
However, women are more than “victims” of climate change; women are key to developing solutions. Many national climate action and disaster preparedness plans do not account for the different ways that men and women experience climate change, and do not actively ensure women’s engagement. These are missed opportunities.
This is especially relevant to the Asia-Pacific region. About 90 percent of countries affected by disasters (earthquakes, cyclones and floods) over the last decade are in this region. These events kill more than 70,000 and affect over 200 million people annually. Before the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011, men ran most Japanese disaster response. Evacuation centers weren’t equipped for women; there were no separate bathrooms, no place to change or breastfeed, and centers lacked sanitary products. Japan has worked to change this dynamic, with women serving on disaster management councils and being included in disaster response training for 40,000 officials and community members.
Alongside the G20 meeting, the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society convened a group of high-level leaders from the private, public and NGO sectors. The gathering adopted a G20 Charter for Action with five goals: (1) achieving gender equality in climate decision-making bodies by 2030; (2) raising awareness on the gender/climate nexus and providing girls access to education and green jobs; (3) enabling women’s full engagement in climate action; (4) using gender data and analysis to inform climate policies; and (5) financing and developing gender-responsive and scalable social, economic and technological climate solutions.
Those signing the charter committed to address these fundamental issues by increasing women’s participation on corporate boards, governing bodies and publicly administered organizations related to climate, environment and energy; by supporting more access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education for girls and young women; by implementing gender-sensitive climate finance and sustainable public procurement policies, by decreasing their carbon footprint; and by developing green financial products.
Here are my key takeaways:
1. Women’s leadership is critical. Countries with more women parliamentarians are more likely to ratify environmental treaties. Women comprise only 24 percent of parliamentarians globally and hold 6 percent of ministerial energy and environment portfolios. In Japan, only 10 percent of Lower House members are women, the lowest of the G20 nations. While some Japanese companies are adding women to their boards, as of 2017 women accounted for only 3.7 percent of all officers, including directors and auditors, at listed companies. Simply put, we need more women in office, in corporate management and on corporate boards.
2. Women and girls are key to sustainable resource management and disaster response. Women and girls are responsible for water collection in many places and have vital knowledge of water systems and stewardship practices. Similarly, when women actively participate in disaster planning and response, their unique knowledge drives effective rescue, support, rebuilding and conflict management. The Japan Women’s Network for Disaster Risk Reduction successfully advocated after the Great East Japan Earthquake for gender-sensitive disaster management and reconstruction laws.
3. We need more women in STEM fields and more basic environmental education. Currently, women comprise only 20 to 25 percent of the energy workforce globally; in Japan, only 15 percent of undergraduate engineering, and 27 percent of physical science, majors are women. Increasing women in STEM provides more talent as this sector seeks solutions, including a focus on renewable energy.
4. Women more strongly believe in the need for behavior change to reduce climate impacts. Women express more concern about climate change and are more willing to take action. These beliefs create pressure on both the public and private sectors to respond and create actions that women (and men) can take, from buying locally to demanding that companies create recyclable products. L’Oreal, Unilever and Danone, among others, are shifting to a low carbon footprint.
If we stay our current course, the future will be both unstable and unequal. If we address climate change and women’s empowerment together, our future can be sustainable and equal.
Stephenie Foster, a partner in Smash Strategies, formerly served in the U.S. State Department as a senior adviser/counselor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and as an adviser on women and civil society at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
After years of ‘glacial’ change, women now hold more than 1 in 4 corporate board seats
When Kathy Higgins Victor first joined the board of directors at Best Buy in 1999, she was the only woman in the room. The former Northwest Airlines human resources chief and now president of a leadership coaching firm remembers how she “would say something, and then there’d be silence” followed by approval of a male colleague’s comments. She recalls thinking “Excuse me, was my mic off?”
Then there was the time an executive presented unflattering data about how female customers experienced shopping at the electronics retailer — not being acknowledged, not being helped — and her fellow directors rejected it, saying “that could not possibly be true.” Victor, meanwhile, thought the data was "spot on.”
Twenty years later, Victor is no longer the lone woman in Best Buy’s boardroom — she’s also part of the majority. After new CEO Corie Barry was elected to Best Buy’s board at its June shareholder meeting, the retailer became one of six companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index where women make up the majority of board members.
The Smash Index
Today we are launching The Smash Index to measure gender equality on each presidential campaign. Why are we doing this?
Gender issues and the role of women in our society are on the front line of current policy discussions due to the rise of the #MeToo movement, advocacy around pay equity, and attacks on women’s reproductive rights.
Campaigns today are multi-million dollar small businesses. They should build in strong diversity and inclusion policies, and consider gender. This is analogous to movements to push corporations and businesses to take actions to hire and retain women at all levels, and ensure that women are engaged in decision-making and product design.
One of these candidates will begin their term in January 2021, we want to ensure that the President has considered these issues as she or he implements both domestic and foreign policy.
The Smash Index covers how the campaign is running and how gender is addressed in the campaign’s policy and programs. With regard to internal management, questions focus on women’s representation, pay at every level of the campaign and how issues such as sexual harassment, computer usage and leave are addressed. On the policy side, we question how women voters are targeted and how gender issues are integrated across policy plans.
Every presidential campaign is invited to complete the Index. Submissions are open now and will be accepted through August 15, 2019. All campaigns will be scored out of a total of 100 points based on their responses and publicly available information. Campaigns which do not respond will receive a zero. The full Index results will be released in early September.
The Smash Index is a tool for campaigns and voters. Campaigns from both parties can use it to showcase their gender equality efforts across their public policy and their campaign organizations. Voters can use it to compare the presidential campaigns on specific data points related to gender equality.
At Smash Strategies, we have decades of experience, internationally and domestically, working on politics, policy and advocacy. We understand that information is powerful in driving sustainable change. We think it’s time that voters can understand how candidates for president and their campaigns translate rhetoric into reality.