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Behind every great man is a great woman

Malek Nejjai

Chief Diversity Officer, Amadeus IT Group

This saying is of unknown origin, although it has been in use since at least 1945. I am sure that we have all heard it before, at least once in our life, and funnily enough, when it is said by a man, the woman he is referring to, i.e. the one behind him, experiences a certain pride, and even more interestingly, these words also flow directly from the woman herself and again, a certain satisfaction is perceived when she does so.

womens day


But now it is time for women to take a step forward. We should all strive to change this saying to something along the lines of ‘Next to every great man is a great woman’.

The latest findings on gender equality from the World Bank are absolutely staggering:

  • The women’s labour force has in fact decreased from 57% in 1990 to 55% in 2012
  • Women on average earn up to 25% or 30% less than men
  • In only 5 out of the 114 countries for which data is available, women reached or surpassed gender parity with men in jobs as legislators, senior officials and managers, namely Colombia, Fiji, Jamaica, Lesotho and The Philippines
  • Women spent more time than men on unpaid domestic work such as childcare and housework
  • Across developing countries, there is a nine percentage point gap between women and men in having an account at a formal financial institution.
  • More than one in three women has experienced either physical or sexual violence by a partner or non-partner
  • In 2010-12, 42 countries reported gender gaps in secondary school enrollment rates exceeding 10%
  • One in three girls in developing countries is married before reaching her 18th birthday

Women don’t need a report’s conclusions, facts and figures nor credible sources: we know it! We live this reality every day.

The unprecedented economic crisis that the world is experiencing is having severe consequences on the population. However, the nature and magnitude of the impact of the crisis differs by gender. This is because women face fewer opportunities and more constraints in the labour market, in addition to the unequal sharing of work within their households. This has led to a significant upsurge in women’s unemployment. However, when asked about finding a job, research shows that close to one half of the people surveyed in developing countries totally agree that when jobs are scarce, men are more entitled to these than women.

Gender inequality has been and continues to be a hot topic that is being discussed at all levels as its effects are devastating. A Goldman Sachs study finds that narrowing gender gaps in employment could push per capita income in emerging markets up to 14% higher by 2020, and as of today, only half of women’s productive potential is being used globally according to the International Labor Organisation .

The technology industry is even more of a man’s world, as there is no female equivalent to the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerbergs of this world. Women continue to lag behind men in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in general and in computer science in particular, where their share of the workforce has actually declined over the past 25 years. In the US, the workforce of women with an undergraduate degree in Computer Science or IT reached its peak where 37% of Computer Science degrees were awarded to women. This figure has since declined every year and recent figures from the Computing Research Association indicate that less than 12% of Computer Science bachelor’s degrees were granted to women at U.S. PhD-granting institutions in 2010-11.

However, no matter how many surveys are carried out by prestigious firms, no matter what legislation is passed and no matter how much effort is made by the public and private sectors, the gender gap will continue to stigmatise women unless we all step up, speak up and challenge the status quo. I hope you all had a Happy International Women's day.

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