Making every year the Year of the Woman


by Chiara Corazza, Managing Director, Women's Forum for the Economy & Society

2018 was a great year for women. We saw progress on pay equality, great strides towards better representation on boards and leadership teams, progress on women's political leadership, and plenty of recognition for excellence in science and global campaigning.

While I am delighted to see all this progress, we should continue to work for the ultimate prize: a world in which every year is year of the woman, and this kind of achievement is normal, not exceptional.

Celebrating our strides forward

Of course I was happy to see a record number of women elected to the US House of Representatives and a new Spanish cabinet take office that was two-thirds female. In Mexico, women now make up 49% of the lower house and 51% percent of the senate, and I had the extraordinary opportunity meet with several women leaders: Minister of the Interior of Mexico; Olga Cordero Sanchez, Minister of Economy Graciela Márquez Colín; the youngest minister in the Mexican government, as well as Secretary of Labor of Mexico Luisa María Alcalde; Minister of Culture - Alejandra Frausto and Head of Government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum. But I look forward to a time when we are so used to seeing women in politics that gender balance in executives, legislatures, and candidacies does not make international headlines.

Meanwhile, the first woman president of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, has been appointed by the country’s parliament, and a raft of women defense ministers across Europe – from Spain to Albania – are a testament to women’s representation in defense.

Of course I cheered when scientists Donna Strickland and Frances Arnold received Nobel Peace Prizes in Physics and Chemistry respectively. But they were only the third and fifth women to do so. The Nobel committee also recognised Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor of Islamic State capture and abuse, for her work to end sexual violence as a weapon of war. Real progress would be as many women winning Nobel Prizes as men.

I hope that's what seemed like big steps for 2018 will seem normal in five, ten, or twenty years’ time. After all, there is still a lot of work to be done. Last year the The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report revealed that of the 149 countries they assessed, just 17 currently have women as heads of state. On average, less than a quarter - 24% - of parliamentarians are women. Worse, women make up less than a fifth - 18% - of ministers. As we celebrate 2018 as Year of the Woman, we should remember that 2018 was just one of the first few steps on what remains a very long journey.

Being inspired to do more

For all the attention we rightly give to progress on representation in campaigns and political roles, the vast majority of working women worldwide work for companies. And here there is a long way to go.

Across the G20 countries, which account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product, the number of women represented on boards is still a figure which should change: 17%. It’s a missed opportunity for a new generation of children, teenagers, and younger workers - male and female - to see senior, board level women, as role models. The demonstration effect - ‘I can do this so you can do it too’ - matters.

But progress is not just a numbers game. At the Women’s Forum, it’s our commitment not just to advance representation, but to create the conditions so that those leaders can have real impact on crucial issues that affect us all: especially those on the agenda of the G7 and G20 like climate, women in technology and working for greater inclusion. That’s part of the reason that the theme for our efforts this year is Taking the lead for inclusion, and we invite you to learn more and to join us.

After rightly celebrating the progress we’ve made, it’s time to redouble our efforts. We need to take inspiration from the extraordinary strides forward and then go further. We need to replicate the policies and practices which have had impact, encourage more women to climb the ladder within companies and start their own, and carry on working until 2018 – The Year of the Woman – looks like another era.

#InternationalWomensDay2019 #IWD19