Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
There are millions of women all over the globe who are experiencing some sort of gender inequality. Progress is being made in all aspects of women’s lives – including the area of economic and business empowerment. Through initiatives enabled by technology, women are starting to gain the most basic rights, such as access to the Internet, financial inclusion, and entrepreneurial prowess.
Gender equality was a hot topic in Hollywood in 2016. Sandra Bullock couldn’t find challenging scripts, so she asked her agent to start sending her scripts meant for men. And she was quite happy that inequality in pay between actors and actresses was brought to the public’s attention during the Sony hack a while back.
While Sandra is fighting for equal pay and better roles in Hollywood, there are millions of women all over the globe who are experiencing similar or more extreme gender inequality. The majority of these women don’t have the clout that Sandra has. In fact, they sometimes have no voice at all.
This is where the United Nations (UN) and its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5 come into play. It is specifically targeted toward ending discrimination against women and girls throughout the world. As the UN notes, “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.”
If the world succeeds in achieving this goal by the 2030 target date, women would no longer experience extreme violence, such as trafficking and sexual exploitation. Harmful practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation would end. Women would have universal access to sexual and reproductive health information, and they would have equal rights to economic resources. And technology would promote the empowerment of women everywhere.
Progress is being made in all aspects of women’s and girls’ lives – including the area of economic and business empowerment. Through initiatives like the ones here, women are starting to gain the most basic rights, such as access to the Internet, financial inclusion, and entrepreneurial empowerment.
A recent report by the World Wide Web Foundation found that women in poor urban areas of developing countries are 50% less likely to use the Internet than men. The report also found that women are 30%–50% less likely to use the Internet to increase their income or participate in public life.
Lack of Internet access is a way of keeping women systematically underserved, according to NetHope, an organization that creates collaborations between nonprofit organizations and technology companies to serve populations in developing countries. NetHope and its partners created the Women and the Web Alliance, which introduced more than 100,000 15- to 25-year-old Kenyan and Nigerian women and girls to the Internet to advance their social and economic empowerment. In addition, thanks to this initiative, 540,000 women now have access to online e-learning and mentoring programs.
Data from the World Bank suggests that approximately 2.5 billion people do not have a formal account at a financial institution, and only 47% of women have a bank account versus 55% of men. To counteract this kind of inequality, Compartamos Banco opened its doors in 1990 to provide financing to female small business owners with low incomes. Today, more than 90% of the bank’s 2.8 million clients in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru are women. With tools such as loans, savings accounts, insurance, and financial education, the bank hopes to give the women it serves what they need to have a better quality of life.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Ghana is the world’s third-biggest shea producer after Nigeria and Mali. Producing shea nut products can be an arduous task, especially without the right education or the right financial tools. Such was the case in northern Ghana, where generations of rural women manually processed these nuts into butter for cooking and health products, until several years ago when the StarShea Network was formed.
The network is a federation of rural women’s groups in northern Ghana that harvest and process shea nuts and butter. It provides information technology, education, and microfinancing to the women, so they can conduct business independently and sustainably. Through mobile technology, these women receive transparency on current market prices so they can sell their products competitively to global customers. They also have the technology to scan personalized bar-code labels on each shea nut sack to track individual production and storage details.
It appears that Sandra Bullock’s fight for equality caused a stir in Hollywood. Several executives recently convened and initiated an array of tactics aimed at eliminating discrimination. The plan includes bias education, gender parity identifications, training and fellowship programs for female film and TV directors, and ambassadors who will spread the word.
SAP is also doing its part in eliminating gender inequality in support of its vision and purpose, which is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. For instance, SAP played a key role in the above-mentioned StarShea network. We teamed up with Positive Planet to form the network in an effort to improve living conditions and make the supply chain more transparent and efficient for the women in the federation.
SAP is also committed to driving gender diversity within its own workforce. Our CEO, Bill McDermott, signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Statement and the Paradigm for Parity Pledge. Our company has a multitude of programs and activities aimed at supporting female talents. We are increasing the number of women in leadership positions through initiatives such as a Web-based virtual women’s professional growth series. SAP became the first multinational technology company to be awarded global gender equality certification from the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) organization. Moreover, SAP could achieve its target of 25% women in leadership already by mid-2017.
Furthermore, SAP started systematically closing the pay gap between male and female employees. In the North America division of SAP SE, for example, SAP examined pay for its U.S. employees with assistance from external consultants and took into account factors such as years of experience, past performance reviews, and employee location. In cases where pay disparities among similar employees couldn’t be explained by those kinds of variables and fell outside a certain range, pay adjustments were made.