HeForShe is a UN-Women’s initiative. The campaign began over six months ago with a lot of media attention. At that time, actress Emma Watson gave an impassioned speech at the United Nations in New York. Watson: ‘Fighting for women’s rights has too become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop’ (...) ‘It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals ... How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?’
HeForShe has an ambitious objective: there must be gender equality by 2030. What that means exactly, is still unclear. Is it about the number of women in top positions, violence against women, or the differences in salaries between men and women? We do not have the answer yet, and that is a missed opportunity. Solid objectives are easier to realize than global ambitions, however noble.
Gender equality is only achievable if it is given constant attention. Well-defined sub-goals can help. Not by pointing the finger, but by emphasizing the common interest. Women and men are equal yet different too. The added value lies in their distinctive features. Women generally have a greater degree of empathy and are more willing to compromise. A useful characteristic when negotiations get tough and major interests are at stake.
Also in day-to-day operations a healthy balance between men and women is valuable. That is not just an opinion, it is a fact: research shows that the return in sales at companies with women at the top is no less than 42% higher. When it comes to return on invested capital that effect is even +66% stronger.
HeForShe has an excellent starting point: men should actively participate in the discussion. Not as an opponent but as a supporter. Man-hate is only counterproductive. By reaching out to men, HeForShe shows empathy and self-reflection. Yes, with those typically feminine characteristics the first step is taken. Now it’s up to the men.
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