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Advancing Women's Leadership

Taking Stock of SDG5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

When the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were established in 2015, Goal 5 was devoted to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. While all the Global Goals are crucial to ensuring we build a better world, our collective ability to make progress on SDG 5 has severe implications on our ability to achieve all the SDGs. SDG 5 overlaps and intersects other Global Goals related to climate action, poverty reduction, reducing inequality, and access to human rights including food, clean water, and education.

In Canada, the private sector and broader business community have shown a particular interest in SDG 5 but according to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index (2022), Canada’s gender equality performance is deteriorating: in 2019, Canada ranked 16th globally but has since fallen to 25th in 2022. While Canada performs well in the “Educational Attainment” category, it has been slipping down the ranking in the “Economic Participation and Opportunity” category. Notably, we rank 71st in the world for pay equity and 62nd in the world for women legislators, senior officials, and managers. As organizations reflect on the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, #EmbraceEquity, addressing both issues – ensuring equal pay for work of equal value and improving women’s representation in senior roles – could go a long way to help reduce Canada’s economic gender gap.

When it comes down to demonstrating gender equity leadership, best in practice organizations prioritize four actions: make a commitment to Goal 5, implement policies and practices to close gender gaps, collect data to measure their progress, and transparently communicate their journey with internal and external stakeholders. To follow suit, consider starting the process by signing up for the Women’s Empowerment Principles and consulting a confidential self-assessment such as the Women’s Empowerment Principles Gender Gap Analysis Tool to better understand your organizations’ shortcomings and strategize how to address them. Once you collect qualitative and quantitative data and receive a benchmark, you can work to align your gender equality efforts with best practices in leadership, the workplace, the marketplace, and your community. Organizations should also keep in mind that gender identity is just one marker of diversity that should be considered when it comes to empowering women; intersectionality of race, disability, sexual orientation, immigration status, education level, age, etc. must all factor in to how your organization embraces equity.

We need more organizations in Canada committing to improving gender-based economic participation and opportunity indicators to make meaningful progress on Goal 5. Time is running out and Canada will keep slipping in the rankings if companies fail to take charge.

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