Saudi Arabia’s Princess Reema On Why Gender Equality Must Be A Global Priority
Along with Future Investment Initiative Institute CEO, Richard Attias, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., H.R.H. Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud shares her empowering manifesto with Harper’s Bazaar Arabia here...
BY: H.R.H. Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States
Women around the world are making impressive strides; they’ve led the fight against Covid-19, are increasingly taking on senior policy positions and running corporate board rooms, as part of an increasing number of thought leaders who are making a difference that will inspire generations to come.
To support this momentum we urge leaders, policy makers and tech pioneers to engage more of their efforts into rectifying long-standing gender inequalities. 2021 is the year for fresh thinking, the time to embrace re-invention, as we collectively push for greater equity for women and girls.
We’ve seen great progress. Every region in the world has made gains in ensuring the legal treatment of women. More women and girls have access to education and healthcare than they ever did in the past. Technology is also being harnessed to reduce gender barriers. Start-ups and tech companies are deploying job-hiring software platforms that use Artificial Intelligence to weed out bias and human resource analytic tools that allow deeper participation from all staff, regardless of seniority or gender.
Women are making significant advances. American voters elected Kamala Harris as the first female vice president in U.S. history – a milestone. Christine Lagarde was the first woman to head the European Central Bank and Nicke Widyawati runs Pertamina, Indonesia’s state-owned largest oil and gas company. There are dozens of the others in leadership roles that are making a difference in their countries.
But progress shouldn't be measured by just the number of women in leadership positions alone or by symbolic breakthroughs; it should be defined by equal access to professional opportunities and education, greater access to finance and healthcare, and more female voices in the community.
Covid-19 hasn’t helped; in fact, it has highlighted how quickly things can change. Some predictions suggest the gains seen over the last 25 years with women in the workplace could be wiped out in a year. When compared to men, four times as many women dropped out of the U.S. labour force in September (roughly 865,000 women, compared to 216,000 men), according to a report by the Century Foundation and Center for American Progress.
We believe there are a number of solutions that could help us focus policies. Expanding internet access into homes and rural communities is crucial, and governments should make this an infrastructure priority to increase remote work opportunities and FII-virtual career training. The International Telecommunication Union put the proportion of women using the Internet globally at 48 per cent, compared to 58 per cent of men in 2019.
Access to financial literacy should be expanded. How to manage savings, banking and investment accounts for women is important since women live longer yet have weaker earning power. Without financial literacy, women can struggle to lift themselves out of poverty and make decisions independently for themselves and their families.
The roughly 252 million female entrepreneurs around the world should also be supported. Although the number of female entrepreneurs has increased about 114 per cent in the last two decades, according to data from the Legal Job Site, it’s still falling behind their male counterparts. To change this dedicated credit lines, availability of infrastructure for their businesses and government-led programs should be strengthened to promote the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women, particularly in developing countries where many can struggle to find work.
When self-isolation and lockdowns were implemented to slow the spread of Covid-19, we had the good fortunate of working from home. We logged into our laptops, used our phones and held virtual conference calls. We were fortunate, but others weren’t. Those working as frontline medical staff, in the fast-food industry and other service sectors had to manage an unprecedented change in their lives. Many suffered as they had to quit their jobs to home school their children.
While there have been significant gains for women, we believe that more needs to be done. There is no better time to advance women’s roles in society than now -- there needs to be a Neo-Renaissance, a rethinking. Since we can’t go back to the way things were, let’s be more inclusive going forward.