For years, gender equality has been a major subject of discussion. There are the supporters, the detractors, and the ones who are indifferent. Most of us have an opinion about gender equality, but can we say things have progressed lately? Inequalities are everywhere, in different moments of life and in all parts of the globe.
UN Women was created in July 2010 with the purpose of creating a greater impact on gender equality and facilitating the empowerment of women. In September 2014, UN Women launched a global initiative called HeforShe, grounded in the idea that gender equality is an issue that affects all people. Its goal is to engage men as agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights.
The ‘Impact 10x10x10’ pilot program was created to engage governments, corporations and universities around the world to accelerate and enhance the impact of the campaign. The organizers of #HeForSheGlion, Shirley Ko and Franco Benitez, involved Glion in this global movement and organized the first panel discussion to enlighten students to the cause.
For the first panel, we had the honor of welcoming panelists from a wide range of industries, in both the public and private sector: Kristin Engvig, founder and leader of W.I.N. (Women’s International Networking); Ambassador Keith Harper (United States representative to United Nations Human Rights Council; Mary Farmer (former Director of Glion Online programs); Graziella Zanoletti (CEO and founder of Elite car rental in Geneva) and Professor Sacha P. Sidjanski, External Relations Manager at EPFL). From their personal experiences, observations and initiatives, they shared with us their opinions on and vision for gender equality, and the role of men in the movement.
At the start of the panel, Kristin Engvig reminded us about the evolution of gender equality and stressed several aspects of the current situation. She explained that for centuries inequality was a part of our history but it is only recently that people’s awareness of the issue soared.
The world is changing quickly in many ways, where the arrival of women in business has transformed notions of hierarchy, communication, values and networks. Women don’t want to be hired because of their gender just to help a company reach its quota. And on the flip side, men should be granted paternity leave to raise their children. People want to be listened to for what they are saying and not be held to assumptions based on whether they are a man or a woman. We are all involved in this change, and we need each other to realize this change. For Kristin Engvig, the HeForShe campaign is the expression of this change; it is not just “another feminist campaign”, it is a movement that promotes equality.
After a brilliant start to the event, the passionate, intellectual and informed panel discussion commenced. The audience represented Glion’s international environment and the importance of our diversity. As an international institute of higher education, Glion welcomes students with different familial, educational, cultural and traditional backgrounds, hence, enhancing our view of gender equality. Panelists reminded us that, as future leaders of a globalized industry, we have a role to play for this cause, by promoting gender equality and stopping discrimination.
Although the panelists were from different professional backgrounds, they all agreed on the prevalence of inequality. Whether it was with recruitment, interpersonal relationships or salary, it was quite alarming to see all the panelists mention an example without thinking for more than 5 seconds. Among these issues, pay inequality appeared to be one of the biggest ones because it is more tangible than inequalities on an interpersonal level. However, it is also a cause for concern because the gender pay gap impacts one’s pension. Panelists noted women tend to limit themselves in certain sectors such as engineering, where for every job offer, 50 men apply, compared to only 5 women.
This first panel gave us an amazing opportunity to share and improve our awareness of this sensitive but fundamental subject. It demonstrated the effect of one small action in changing everything. If we all do the small things, we will be met with change in the end. It is our responsibility as citizens of the world, as men and as women, and as human beings, to fight for our civilization and for a world where gender equality will cease to be an issue one day. Because HeForShe is also SheForHe, we have to understand and support each other to eradicate the inequality that affects us all.