I believe we are. I’m sitting here reflecting on the past few days spent at the G20 YEA Summit in Sydney, an incredible group of young entrepreneurs from the G20 nations who come together annually to develop recommendations that address the challenges that young entrepreneurs face. The communique that is established is then presented to the G20 and B20 leaders for consideration.
I was also a selected delegate at the Moscow summit last year where Australia received a standing ovation from the entire summit for being the only country to bring a 50% female and 50% male delegation to the summit. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Standing up on that stage, while 400 people from all around the world stood and applauded us was a moment in time for me that sparked something inside. I am completely and utterly committed to achieving gender equality, and arriving at a point in time where it is no longer considered an issue at all.
This year, the Australian G20 YEA leadership team made a recommendation to all countries to follow our example set in 2013 and increase the number (some from zero!) of female delegates to 50%. We also committed having 50% female speakers at the summit and of course for our delegation to be equal too.
Arriving at the summit last Friday was incredible, and although most countries didn’t manage to bring together an equal split of females and males, we raised the number of female delegates over all substantially. I don’t know the exact numbers but my gut feel is that we went from somewhere around 10-15% in 2013, to around 35%-40% this year.
This makes me feel very optimistic that our generation is the generation to actually make real change when it comes to gender equality. The 2015 host country, Turkey, will keep the issue of gender equality on the table. Given the impact we made in the last 12 months, I’m confident we could have an equal proportion of young female entrepreneurs to their male counterparts next year.
What this represents to me is the benefit of a mandate, recommendation or quota — whatever you prefer to call it — when it comes to activating change. In my humble opinion, a directive to make change results in it then becoming ‘normal’ for us to see that change and the directive will no longer need to exist. Of course in a perfect world, the so-called “merit based system” is what I favour, however it has not gotten us very far to date.
I’m personally sick of seeing lengthy goals set to increase participation of a under-represented group by small increments over a long period of time. In relation to this issue, knowing that half of the population are women, and half of the businesses started each year are started by women, why wouldn’t we just make a clear cut change right away to increase female participation within the entrepreneurial ecosystem to 50%? Effective immediately.
My call to action goes out to anyone who is involved in the leadership of any organisation, to make real change and to do it quickly.
The most inspiring part of this year’s G20 YEA summit (for me) was when 400 hands shot up in the room, all belonging to influential young entrepreneurial leaders, each committing to return home and back to their own entrepreneurial communities to make this change — to strive for 50% female representation, not just a slight increase in women.