Three Imperatives for Gender Equality in a Time of Conflict

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an intentional day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It’s a day for the global community to come together and shine a spotlight on progress — and the work still to be done. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. This year, the theme is #BreakTheBias.

By Kate Olsen

Protect and champion human rights

It’s vital to defend the rights and safety of those impacted by war and conflict and advance peace, security and democratic ideals. Beyond addressing the most egregious violations of human rights, there is a clear role for policymakers, business leaders and social sector organizations to safeguard and advance access to safe and affordable healthcare. This includes maternal and reproductive health services, education and economic security — as well as essential needs such as food security, clean water, sanitation, public safety and more.

Empower women as leaders

There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the value of having more women in positions of power in the halls of government, in boardrooms and in the C-suite. Evidence also proves that more inclusive and diverse teams at all organizational levels drive better performance and innovation. Realizing this impact universally will require a collective effort across sectors to build more traditional and nontraditional pathways for women to lead.

Design an inclusive future of work

The pandemic has made blindingly clear that work is not working for many women around the world. In many countries around the world, women’s participation in the workforce fell dramatically. As leaders create a future of work that leans into technology and flexibility, it will be important to create onramps and conditions for women to reenter and thrive in workplaces that are accessible and inclusive. That means adapting recruitment practices to reach women who have left or been forced out of the workforce. It also means designing good, safe jobs with fair wages that close the gender pay gap, removing barriers that hold women back by enabling paid family leave and affordable childcare and appropriately valuing the unpaid caregiving work many women undertake.

This list of imperatives is not exhaustive, but it reflects the critical work to be done — and the ground to regain — in the near term against an urgent timeline to accelerate positive change for women, humanity and the world.

Kate Olsen


Kate specializes in developing strategies and integrated engagement campaigns that help purpose-driven clients build brands and advance sustainable development.

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