In a world fractured by conflict, barriers and division, the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society (WF) aims to unite populations and break down borders by advocating for women’s full participation at all levels of life, in governments, the workplace and in communities.
While gender equality is a hot topic in the news – from the Venice film festival’s recent demand for half its films to be directed by women by 2020, to a female tennis player’s penalty for showing her sports bra while her male colleagues sit topless unopposed – the WF is engaging leaders from around the world to put in place concrete actions to achieve real and sustainable impact.
Sanofi, a partner with the WF for the past seven years, is totally onboard.
As a health journey partner, Sanofi is engaged in innovation for healthier people and communities worldwide, connecting people across cultures and continents and is delighted to be part of the global conversation started this year in May at the WF meeting in Toronto, Canada. The forum gathered 700 leaders from around the world in Toronto to discuss “Bridging the Gap: A call to the G7 for inclusive progress”, and asked women leaders what policies were needed for greater equality and empowerment for women.
The resulting manifesto for the G7 Summit one month later was not out of the ordinary in its asks, focusing on, among others, women’s safety; workplace equality; and equal access to education, but the overarching call was for the G7 heads of state to lead by example, to be conscious of the value of women, to listen to them and involve them in crucial issues such as climate change.
The conversation continues in Singapore in September 12-14 under the theme “Bridging worlds for inclusive innovation” with leaders from across ASEANS’ ten nations that make up the world’s seventh-largest economy and include some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. It is no coincidence that the WF meeting falls just before the ASEAN Summit in November.
The Sanofi delegation to Singapore is led by Karen Linehan, Sanofi’s Executive President, Legal Affairs and General Counsel and the founding member of its Gender Balance Board, who will talk about ‘What should diversity look like for ASEAN business?’.
The overall picture shows that there is still much to be done. In Asia Pacific companies (APAC), women are represented at junior and middle levels, but only 10% make it onto Boards, despite the fact that those companies in APAC with women on Boards have higher market value1.
Part of the obstacle to reaching the higher echelons is a cultural pressure that has engendered self-limiting beliefs such as - ‘Will I be a negligent wife and mother?’; ‘Should I be more assertive, will I sound like a dragon lady?’; ‘I can’t do it all!’- doubts that women are raised on the world over. However, some countries have very fixed expectations of the role and place of women in their society. In Japan, for example, it is not uncommon for women to quit their job after they get married to devote themselves to their family. This is still often the case for Korean women, who leave their jobs to focus on child care, rejoining in their 40s at levels significantly lower than their male counterparts. Family obligations also prevent Chinese women moving away for better positions, unlike the men who often leave their families behind for a better post2.
Exclusion from society and the workplace can start even earlier if there is not equal access to education. In India only 8% of young boys and men are not in employment or education compared to just over 49% of young girls and women3.
But it’s not all bad news. Sanofi’s gender balance team across Asia dug deep to see how we were performing and came up with some unexpected results. Across Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, there is a high female ratio, 60% women versus 40% male and around 65% of candidates are women. More surprising, however, is the 54%/46% female/male ratio at senior leader level.
Sanofi in Vietnam and Cambodia also has a high proportion of women in its management team with a 80% female/20% male ratio. Despite this, the team also found that women tend to stay in their comfort zone and hesitate to change jobs. In other countries, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan the teams are more balanced and in line with Sanofi’s future objectives for Asia 2025 - a 50/50 male/female ratio at senior manager level.
It is this quest for an equal voice that is driving this global momentum for change and will continue to spread as the WF holds its final Global Meeting in Paris in November with the perspective “Bridging Humanity for Inclusive Progress”.
For Sanofi this means leaving no one behind. One-third of the world’s population has no access to quality healthcare solutions, and as a health journey partner, we have one objective: to improve access to healthcare and high-quality medications for underserved and vulnerable populations.
Let the conversation begin!
- Bloomberg. Credit Suisse Research.
- United Nations Economic Scientific and Cultural Organization, Gender, Jobs & Education: Prospects & Realities in Asia-Pacific.
- Diversity and Gender Balance (World Economic Forum Study, 2017).