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We Need Gender Parity Urgently

Every day, I wear a few hats.  I’m a mom to two tweens, a special-needs son and an incredibly precocious daughter.  I’m also The Rockefeller Foundation’s Executive Vice President for Program Strategy and its Chief of Staff.  I joined the Foundation after a career that began in the male-dominated investment banking industry, rising through the ranks as an Asian-American Pacific Islander woman.

Thanks to my amazing husband and the support of my family and friends, I’ve been able to access childcare, advance in my career, and enjoy financial security.  As an adult, I haven’t had to worry about having a roof over my head or being able to put dinner on the table for my children.  I know how fortunate I am.

Unfortunately, that is not the case for most women in the United States or around the world.  In the U.S., we just acknowledged “Equal Pay Day” on March 24th — an occasion created in 1996 to mark how many days into the next year that American women, on average, must work in order to have earned what men, on average, earned the prior year.  Prior to the pandemic, the World Economic Forum estimated it would take 99 years to close the economic gap between women and men.

The pandemic has only made things worse for women and girls.

According to McKinsey, women lost 54% of overall jobs these past two years — despite being just 39% of the global workforce.  The UN Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021 detailed meaningful losses in access to reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health services during the pandemic.  The report also determined that up to ten million more girls are at risk of child marriage, due to a combination of economic shocks, school closures, and interruptions in reproductive health services.  It’s no surprise, then, that the World Economic Forum now estimates it will take the world 136 years to close the gender gap.

That’s at least five generations from now. 

Those numbers do not account for the other crisis threatening women’s lives and livelihoods: climate change.  From floods to wildfires, extreme weather events impact the poorest and most vulnerable people first and worst — and women comprise 70% of the world’s poor.  As Verona Collantes, an intergovernmental specialist with UN Women, told Global Citizen, climate-related hazards “result in higher workloads for women, occupational hazards indoors and outdoors, psychological and emotional stress, and higher mortality compared to men.”

We cannot stand still when 49.6% of the global population does not have equitable access to the resources they need to survive and thrive in the 21st century. That is why the Foundation is accelerating action to support women’s equity.

We believe these crises offer an opportunity to reimagine the world order — and remake it in a way that helps women, and in turn, their families and communities, become healthier, safer, and more successful.

In the United States, we’re investing in, advocating for, and developing policies and practices that improve economic stability for women who work in low-wage jobs. Around the world, the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet will ensure that half its projects’ productive energy users are women and that these projects both increase women’s participation in the renewable energy sector and alter the trajectory of climate change, which disproportionately harms women and girls. And Co-Impact aims to raise $1 billion to accelerate progress towards gender equality and advance women’s leadership.

Equity underpins everything we do at the Foundation.

It has defined us for more than a century and will drive our work in the 21st century and beyond.  We live that value internally, too.  When I look across our organization, I’m proud to see so many colleagues who identify as female succeeding, at every level and on every team.  Over half of the Foundation’s employees, managers, and senior leaders are women.

We’re going to keep working hard to advance gender equity through RF’s programs. And I hope that you will join us in ensuring that gender parity arrives within our daughters’ lifetimes.

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