There is a wonderful picture on my computer screensaver, taken a few Septembers ago, of my husband and me, surrounded by our five granddaughters (ranging in age from four months to almost 7 years old at the time).
Each time that photo catches my eye, I still find myself in a kind of almost happy disbelief, for the score has been flipped on its head in only one generation. My husband and I had three sons, hence, I was outnumbered in our household 4:1.
Back then; 4 testosterone: 1 estrogen.
Now? The men are outnumbered. Today the score sits at 4 testosterone: 9 estrogen.
I waited many years for the joy of female family members, never expecting to experience this type of balance. Now that I am a grandmother, an Amah, I reflect on what the future holds for today's young women.
Whilst I was waiting (and hoping) for an estrogen infusion into our family, the world was going through a dramatic change in the gender ratio balance. This is a significant, virtually hidden and very worrisome issue. One that is very likely going to have a big impact on our future world.
While on travel, I picked up the riveting book Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendadhl, which had been shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times book prize and a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. What I read about gender imbalance of girls to boys was shocking.
The link to technology and subsequent use of ultrasound is alarming, for it means that the skewed sex ration is an outgrowth of economic progress not backward traditions. Restoring the global balance of males and females could take until 2050.
Implications are profound. Evidence already shows that girls throughout the world face higher rates of violence, poverty, and discrimination. The world’s surplus men means an increase of testosterone and therefore more violence, with huge rises in the number of kidnappings, prostitution, and international trafficking and child marriages.
By now most of know of Malala, the brave young woman who at 14 years old was shot by the Taliban for standing up and advocating for the education of girls. Ironically, during that same week back in 2012, October 11 was declared by the United Nations as the world's first International Day of the Girl Child. Canada has led the international community in adopting this day, along with the support of Plan Canada.
The question is why are girls and women valued less than boys and men?
There is a growing recognition around the world that support girls and their basic human rights is key for healthy communities. History shows that the best way to convince more couples to have girls is to improve the status of women by boosting education and career advancement.
And yet, sadly, women still need to be distinguished separately in diversity initiatives along with immigrants, GLBT, and people of color. Each of those segments are composed of either men OR women and so to be identified separately AND to naturally fall into any other ism as a woman is a double whammy.
In spite of that ‘so called’ advocacy, we still read in the media that salaries are 15% to 30% less than men, and women’s representation in Fortune 500 leadership positions has stagnated in recent years. In case you missed it, here is a wonderful infographic that we developed here at Global Learning, for this year’s International Women’s Day that looks at the gender wage gap here in Canada and the U.S.A. We have come so far, yet what is already ten years ago, in 2005 Royal Bank of Canada released a report that estimated the lost income potential of women in Canada due to the wage gap is about $126-billion a year.
So what is going on? It is a cultural and economic issue… not a gender one.
Culture can be defined simply as ‘the way we do things here’. Geert Hofstede, a well known researcher, defines organization culture as the “collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members from others".
And culture is not easily described. Try articulating five or six practices in your organization and then ask “why do we do that?”.
Culture is based on values, the glue to behavior and decision- making.
The question is: what’s invisible in our Canadian culture that does not recognize girls and women as equal, valuable contributors and leaders in the world of work- in government and in politics?
My invitation to you: take a stand and start an inquiry with others about what is going on from a cultural and economic lens.
It is not only about my granddaughters; it is about your daughters and granddaughters too. It is about creating the future.