Jennifer Okolo on gender equality in the workplace

 

There is no doubt that women are still underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) fields. I am on a mission to help close the gap, even if it’s by a little bit.

 

Not long ago I had the opportunity to represent the United Kingdom at the Y7 Summit in France focusing particularly on gender inequality and recognising that gender equality is fundamental for the fulfillment of human rights. We spent the following days working alongside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives. Our goal was to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity, and well-being for all.

 

I believe that there are several differences in the number of girls who take part in STEM subjects compared to their male counterparts. In the same way, this can be seen in the workplace whereby higher-ranking positions in companies in a company are still male-dominated. For example, not too long ago I was selected to train as a bike mechanic as part of a group I will run at my workplace. I know I may not look like it but give me a broken bike and I can assure you it will be taken good care of! The issue is my clients often did not believe this was the case and found it hard to comprehend that a woman can also do this role just as much as our male counterparts.

 

Whilst this issue has been ongoing, our working group came up with some actions we can take forward to combat this problem. We proposed to reform the school curricula by identifying and eliminating gender biases, including those regarding masculinity and femininity in syllabi. For instance, teaching home economics to girls and woodwork to boys, so instead, girls are involved in STEM subjects and therefore more exposed to a wider variety of career fields.

 

The second point was to set a global example of inclusivity and workplace equity within existing organizations and structures. Women are often disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression that overlap with gender. Therefore, we should aim to commit to eliminating career barriers based on gender identity, race, ethnicity, cultural background, national origin, religion, class, sexual orientation, ability, age, and/or any other factors that may cause marginalization. There is the hope that by doing this the future of work will appear more diverse than the current state.

 

Thirdly we proposed to set quantitative annual Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by a government commission for private companies which include the gender pay gap, the ratio of women, men and non-binary employees and their percentage in managerial positions, the percentage of employees taking parental leave, and the average amount of leave ta ken per person. What is amazing to see is that OECD already collects data via a Data Portal which includes selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment, entrepreneurship, governance, health, and development, showing how far we are from achieving gender equality and where the action is most needed.

 

Our last recommendation is to strengthen protections against sexual harassment in the workplace and unfortunately, there is still a stigma around the topic of sexual violence because people don’t want to hear about it. This can be by implementing mandatory gender sensitivity training, by improving the reporting structures and by appointing gender advisors and/or contact persons in the workplace responsible for safeguarding providing information and guidance.

 

In conclusion, to accelerate the future of work more fairly, I believe that gender equality in the workplace is fundamental. Although all the recommendations men tioned won’t completely solve the injustice, we as women are currently facing, it’ll definitely bring us a step closer and encourage others to do the same. To see change and head in the progressive direction, we must work together.

 

“Men need to support women and, I wish it went without saying, women need to support women too. … We must raise both the ceiling and the floor.” —Sheryl Sandberg

 

By Jennifer Okolo

 

Jennifer Okolo is a therapist and the founder of She Aspires – a brand centred around a digital platform that asks young females to write and interact on a series of real-world issues that affect them. Passionate about female empowerment, Jennifer has made it her mission to educate, encourage other women, as explored through social activism, podcasting as 1/3 of ‘She’s In A Pod’, and numerous other public speaking engagements across Europe. 

 

As a qualified occupational therapist, Jennifer has grappled with the lack of diversity within STEM first hand; an imbalance which she continues to challenge and address through her work.

 

 

 

 




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