17 October 2013

Fem strategier för jämställdhet

Just nu pågår en intressant konferens i Dominikanska Republiken. Det är FN:s regionala organisation för latinamerika och karibien CEPAL/ECLAC som anordnar den tolfte jämställdhetskonferensen. Årets tema är it. Jag har blivit inbjuden hit för att delta och för att hålla ett tal och delta i en paneldiskussion.
Det är en intressant konferens och det är fantastiskt att få förmånen att delta och att tala. Jag blir upplyft av alla dessa härliga, starka, intelligenta och handlingskraftiga kvinnor. Den kvinna som gjort störst intryck på mig är Alicia Bárcena, CEPAL/ECLAC:s generalsekreterare, som höll ett mycket inspirerande inledningsanförande.
Inför konferensen har man tagit fram ett s.k. position paper som är intressant läsning: Women in the Digital Economy:  Breaking through the equality threshold
Idag har jag medverkat med mitt anförande och deltaigt i en panel tillsammans med dessa kvinnor:

Det här är vad jag sa:
Madam chair, 
honourable and distinguished guests, dear delegates, my distinguished panel members, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank the organizers and ECLAC for inviting me to this conference. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to participate and to make a presentation to all you powerful and intelligent women that are gathered here.
I am from Sweden--my country is often ranked among the most gender-equal societies in the world.  Nevertheless, we have never had a woman prime minister and less than 7% of managing directors are women. 
It’s been interesting to listen to the previous speeches and presentations during this conference and to study the position paper. A lot of figures, a lot of diagrams, a lot of statistics and facts.
I also had prepared a presentation with facts and figures. But I’ve changed my mind and yesterday I changed my presentation. In this presentation I will instead concentrate on possible strategies to attain real change. My point of departure is based on the priorities which Mrs. Sonia Montaño clearly described in the position paper (“Women in the Digital Economy: Breaking through the equality threshold”):
”Inequality is found mainly in the world of work (both paid and unpaid) and public policies must act as a tool for seizing the opportunities arising from the new technology paradigm.”
I have been cabinet minister in several Swedish governments. Nineteen years ago, at only 30 years of age, I was first time appointed cabinet minister in the world’s first government with 50% women. I have experience from both business and public service, but primarily from politics.
One thing I have learned concerning equality between women and men:  nothing happens automatically!
Each step forward is a result of
.           courageous and strategic political decisions, or
.           goal-conscious priorities by political leaders and government, or
.           successful opinion-building efforts by NGOs, or
.           solidarity within and between women’s alliances
Or often, a combination of two or more of the above.
Our topic – Women in Business – could not be separated from the overall strategy to strengthen womens position and an agenda for gender equality.
I will now describe five possible strategies.
First strategy - Political decisions
Three areas appear especially important in political decision-making for gender equality.
·         It should be possible to combine family responsibilities with employment. We can not wait for gender roles in the family to change.  From experience, we know that access to high-quality child care for all women is the most decisive factor which clearly strengthens women’s position in the labour market. And when women earn their own money it helps change the traditional gender roles in the family. It takes both political decisions and financing via state and municipal means to make this a reality. With an ageing population, care of older relatives has become (yet) another burden on women’s shoulders. Politics has a responsibility to facilitate the burdens on women through redistribution. Not until every woman is given the possibility to make a living through paid employment can we combat poverty, and women can be given the opportunity to shape their own lives by being able to make their own decisions.
·         Salaries and working conditions.  The value of women’s work also sets the bar for appraising women in other contexts. Women are still being paid less than men for their work. The most important requisite is equal pay for equal work. But that is not sufficient. It should also involve a re-evaluation of the terms and conditions of the least paid women. The women with the lowest pay also affect the terms and conditions of other women. We must put a stop the exploitation of poor and vulnerable women in the labour market and for those conditions which force some women to sell their bodies to survive. It is also important that domestic workers and women living in rural areas are granted decent rights and working conditions. 
·         Sexual and reproductive rights. Women must have the right to decide over their
             own bodies and sexuality in addition to being protected from violence and abuse.Women’s                 legal rights to decide over their own bodies and to be protected from violence are important              indicators of women’s status in society.
Political decisions are also decisive with regards to bridging the digital divide and improving women’s quality of life through information and communications technologies.
Political decisions like those three seldom pay-back in form of votes in the next election. That’s why courage and a working strategy is needed.
Second strategy -   Every other seat a woman’s seat
Women are not always wiser than men and we do not all react in the same manner just because we are women. But when women take their places in the business world and politics, and claim at least 40% of the total positions, a metamorphosis occurs which changes the definition of ”standard”.  There is a correlation between the proportion of women in parliament and the working conditions for women in the labour market; there is a correlation between the proportion of women in executive positions in the business world and women’s access to equal pay.
A crystal ceiling hampers women’s careers. At a certain level, competent women hit their heads on the invisible but very tangible crystal ceiling. This level of achievement, but no further. That is one of the reasons that there are so few women in leadership roles in business. The women that are CEOs or chairs of company boards are exceptions to ”the rule”.  If we could change this, it would affect the possibilities for all women in business and send a signal to young women that it is worthwhile to get an education and make a career for themselves.
The European Commission has recently made a proposal to establish gender quotas for boards of directors. 40% on the boards of larger companies should be comprised of women by the year 2020.  This is a proposal which evokes resistance, but still has the possibility of becoming reality, thanks especially to Commissioner Redding for brave and persistent efforts behind this proposal. Do I have to tell you that Commissioner Redding is a woman?
Women are better represented in parliaments and government than in business. This region claims many examples of strong women who have reached the highest position of president or head of state. Nonetheless, there is much to do. More women in parliament and more women ministers must be a highly prioritised issue because it affects both the content of politics and sends an important signal.
Third strategy - conquer new areas
When many women decide to enter a new arena or branch of business at the same time, one should utilise the potential from the momentum which has been created. Another option is to be first in a certain field. Information and communication technology has traditionally been connected with math and engineering - areas which have traditionally been dominated by men. There is more focus on social interaction and less on pure technology with new business opportunities within ICT. Communication, language, and social interaction are areas where women have traditionally had an advantage over men. We should utilise this to ensure that women have the possibility to develop and run companies within this expansive area. Now is the opportunity to conquer a new area – ICT as a social skill.
Education programmes in ICT should be just as connected with language and social skills as much as with technology.  Previous speakers yesterday have argued why it’s important to encourage more girls to educate themselves in the area of ICT. I agree. But I will add that we should also challenge the way ICT is being teached in universities, ICT is not characterized by technology alone.
Forth strategy - sisterhood
This is about women who consistently support each other, not just because we always
think alike or because we all have the same agenda. We do neither. But because we share the conviction that gives an opponent the right to have a viewpoint evaluated on its own merit, not have it judged or dismissed based on gender. This is a strategy which can be used in every context.  Women in leadership roles have a special responsibility. It makes a difference when women in leadership positions pave the way for other women, to create possibilities for advancement and influence that are equal to men’s. It makes a difference when women in my age group pave the way and act as mentors for younger women. I guess you all know that there is a special place in hell for women who do not support each other.
Fifth strategy - facts are a woman’s best friend
Only that which is brought to the surface and made visible can be changed.  It’s the thing that being counted that counts. Facts, systemisation and statistics have always been a useful tool for gender equality. The opposite - myths, rumours, and prejudices have always tended to depict men as naturally superior and use them as a standard for humankind.
All public statistics should be gender-specific, all political proposals should be analysed on how they affect women and men, respectively, and knowledge and experience from other countries should be utilised systematically. Countries such as my own - where the employment rate among women are close to the rate of men, where men are in the minority in government, where most men take some parental leave to be at home with their children while their spouses work, and where buying sex from a prostitute has been deemed a criminal act - have not collapsed, but have developed rather well both socially and economically. In fact gender equality foster economic growth, but the reverse relationship is not always true.
Madam chair,
I have tried to present some possible strategies to change reality because that is the task at hand. 
Thank you for listening.  I look forward to our discussion.

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