The International Herald Tribune continues it’s great series – The Female Factor. This recent article reflects on the findings of the PEW Research Center study on Gender Equality. The article is called “Equal Rights for Women? Survey Says: Yes, but …” The study found that in general both women and men believe in the concepts of equal rights and equal opportunity, though there are country differences. Despite that belief, the survey found that in reality of we do not have that, so the real question is then why? Why despite the belief, are we not there yet, and particularly I ask for ‘advanced’ economies? My answer is fueled by the theory of change that I learned from the Women’s Funding Network. To create change a number of things have to happen. First the issue needs to be framed in a way that creates for awareness and engagement by the masses, both men and women. Next that framing fuels behavior change. People start to do things differently because they realize that doing so will make a difference. This behavior change works alongside or to motivate structural and institutional change, which often means laws change. That change is then protected so you don’t start rolling back once forward movement is created.
Think about this in the context of the environmental movement. Folks did a great job telling us why we need to care about our planet, so we know are more likely to pick up garbage, recycle, bring our own bags to the grocery store. Laws have also changed so companies are much more accountable for their carbon footprint.
So what does this mean for advancing gender equality? Lots of things. For example lets consider the Critical Mass Principle – which is a voluntary goal to have a minimum of 30% women on all corporate boards and governmental committees and boards. The fact that diversity of background and perspective improves the quality of decision making has led some organizations seeking this balance, but of course not enough. So what we want to change, is the composition of these boards. We are working on a campaign to lift up the research and encourage companies to do this, while at the same time pushing for a possible mandatory requirement that has already been instituted in some countries. We are framing the issue, then trying to encourage to mandate behavior change.
Bottom line if YOU believe that men and women, boys and girls should have equal rights and access then what are YOU doing to help make that happen? What behaviors support YOUR beliefs and what can you do differently to be part of the change you want to see in the world? What is your social action plan? You can fill in the blank with anything you want to see different. It is one thing to believe something, it is quite another thing to be part of making that belief a reality. Go for it.