Shanti Shamdasani is based in Indonesia and is the President of ASEAN International Advocacy. She works closely with governments in ASEAN on policy collaboration initiatives
What according to you are the successes of gender equality movement which gathered momentum towards the end of the last decade?
Gender equality is a never-ending topic. With more than half of the world population being female, it is inevitable that women will have to play a bigger role at the world agenda, be it economic, social or political.
The milestones achieved have seen women heads of states emerging, more large multinationals are promoting women to the top positions, in developing countries, most part of it, regulations are passed for girls to get education, many job sectors which were previously closed for women are now opening up. These are some of the momentum which I have witnessed in the last decade.
At the start of this decade, what would be your three priorities for gender equal workplaces?
I do not agree with the gender equal workplace. Once you segregate that, it just shows that you acknowledge the inequalities. I would term it as “gender partnership workplace”. First priority is to ensure that “women know their tolerance boundaries at workplace”, second is that “women need not fight for equality, it is a birth right.” What women should do is to stand as tall as their male counterparts, by putting in hard and quality work. Thirdly, women need to get out more and partner with their male counterparts on difficult projects.
How important is the role of men in this movement and what according to you should organisations do to involve them?
Again, this should not be a movement, men should not be taught, told or ordered how to treat women equal, it should come naturally. If anything, their involvement in the workplace must be to educate other men, who behave “less dignified” when it comes to women and to make the “men” aware that women and men are same.
Workplace harbours different cultures. Most Asian men are on auto mode (from their parenting) on having ideas about women and treating them as inferiors is normal. In many of these societies, women sometimes are mentally prepared by their parents to accept bad behaviour from men. Workplaces should dissolve such thinking and re-educate/ re-program these men in terms of how to behave like a gentleman.
How important is the concept of “Sisterhood” in accelerating change?
Why should we have a concept of sisterhood? Why not have a concept of “humanhood”, where there are no gaps, no difference and a woman can work with a man to bring change.
Do you think we need a young champion like Greta Thunberg for this cause as well?
Absolutely! The world can use as many Gretas as possible. Look at the natural disasters, the humanity disasters, who is speaking? Most people remain under the armpit of large corporations working for their own profits. More Gretas please and the aggressive versions !!