Gender equality is having a moment. One hundred years after women were granted the vote, we have finally seen the statue of a woman, suffragist Millicent Fawcett, join the 11 men in Parliament Square. We have heard women speak out against sexual harassment with the #MeToo movement and we have tried to measure our inequality of worth and opportunity by reporting the Gender Pay Gap.
But this is not equality. One statue is not enough. There is a much bigger issue at play - which is the absence of women’s ideas and voices in society. It’s time we talked about The Gender SAY Gap.
The absence of female voices, ideas and insights is the elephant in every room: from the newsroom, where we write and feature in just a fraction of the news; to our underrepresentation in the boardroom and the editing room, where even Hollywood’s leading ladies lack parity of dialogue. What are we teaching our children about women’s right to speak?
Society has failed to acknowledge a quiet revolution. For the last decade women have outnumbered men in high status professions. We are disproportionately the experts in the room, so why aren’t we hearing from female authorities?
Humanity is facing existential challenges, from mitigating climate change and geopolitical conflict, to how we ensure AI delivers a brighter future, not a more unequal one. These are big questions that deserve big answers - which means we need to hear from a diversity of voices.
Bridging The Gender SAY Gap is not a luxury. Women’s invisibility and silence comes at great cost in terms of our own wasted potential and because we are depriving society of our valuable ideas - and the ideas of the next generation who can’t aspire to be what they can’t see and hear from us. And the consequence is that women are missing from public life. Eight out of ten British students can’t name a famous woman working in technology. Is that because we don’t exist, or because of The Gender SAY Gap?
The absence of women as thinkers and even more so, as speakers, for their organisations has to be called out and addressed. I know most of us aren’t glory seekers. We expect our work to speak for itself, but trust me - it won’t. There is great power in being associated with your own signature idea. To have a drum that’s yours and keep on beating it, that’s how we create change. If you believe in your idea, you are its best champion. Because sharing your ideas - making them travel - is as important than having the ideas in the first place.
We have a tremendous opportunity today to make a change in women’s visibility as thought leaders and speakers for their organisations. The supply of brilliant women is there: we are the experts in the room. The demand from companies, Government and media is there: organisations want your ideas and would be justifiably proud to have you represent them. Us elephants in the room are getting harder to ignore and if we want to make this year a milestone for gender equality not a just a moment, we need a surge of female voices to redress the balance.
The statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square holds a placard which reads: “Courage calls to courage everywhere” - the quote continues invisibly: “and its voice cannot be denied.” The world needs a diversity of ideas. I urge you to be seen and heard: stand up and have your say. And together, we can close The Gender SAY Gap.
The world needs a diversity of ideas - which means women and all diverse groups need to stand up and speak out. If you would like to find out more, benchmark your organisation’s Gender SAY Gap or take action to increase the diversity of your thought leaders and speakers, we’d love to hear from you. Be part of the movement: contact us at [email protected], or watch the full speech at the House of Commons.