Wow! The past six weeks since HERWorld17 have been amazing. I've been to Europe and Asia and hot spots all over the globe to speak and connect with members, government officials, media, industry leaders, and gender gap advocates.
My travels eastward have been more eye opening than ever. You can step into one country and it's like going back to the 1960s (and I was born in the 1970s), and other countries, they have more advanced practices. (Yes, China is ahead.)
In Japan I learned that the country ranks 111 of 140 countries in the World Economic Forum's gender gap report. Guys and gals, that's horrific. While traveling with KPMG 's Regina Mayor and Mina Sekiguchi, our Gastech 2017 forum on women in energy held promising discussions -- women from Oman, UAE, Africa, China, Singapore and other countries attended the session. Men were also there which signaled a great sign of support but still there's SO much work to do.
One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Lean In Tokyo leader Rena Suzuki Wagner and her supportive husband Felix Takashi Wagner. Rena is a true progressive blazing a torch for women in Tokyo not just in energy but in multiple industries.
Her husband Felix came along to our meeting which struck me as nothing short of amazing. Felix wants a world like Rena, where women are empowered to achieve their goals and aspirations.
- Social roles put family at the base or center.
- Husbands and families expect wives to quit their jobs and take care of home duties including housekeeping. (Side note: My husband might quite like a move to Japan. You know he's the domestic one in our dual-earner household!)
- Even work style is driven by men's way of thinking. The notion of equal employment opportunity laws were introduced in 1986 which was an attempt to prevent discrimination against working mothers but it's still taken time for culture to change. It's slow.
Many of the women I met in Japan in senior roles has no mentors and found themselves the only ones in meetings much less "networked". And because working women also have the added expectation of taking care of children and the home, women find less time to network, socialize and develop in their careers.
The news wasn't all bad. We talked solutions. To improve, women in Asia suggested the following:
- Increase access to childcare centers, both availability and opening hours.
- Widely endorse flex time and remote work policies (hmm, this sounds Western -- and has been met with opposition now hasn't it?)
- Promote role models for males who have working wives to demonstrate it's do-able.
- Target junior high schools to begin discussing the possibilities in the industry.
There was a moment in the day when JAPEX Chairman stood up and declared his support for women in energy which brought a resounding applause. It was a special moment to observe.
Some of you may be thinking, hmm... how and why does this all matter?
What it comes down to is we're not in the same place. In fact countries can be generations a part. To give you perspective, the US ranks 45 and Canada ranks 35, and the United Kingdom is 20 out of 140 countries measured in the World Economic Forum annual study. The Global Gender Gap Index reveals that all countries can do more to close the gender gap. Across the Index, there are only five countries that have closed 80% of the gap or more. In addition, there are 64 countries that have closed between 70% and 80% of their gender gap. A further 65 countries have closed between 60% and 70%, while 10 countries have closed between 50% and 60%. In 2016, no country had closed less than 50% of their overall gender gap. However, there is wide variety in progress on closing the gender gap in every world region, with both success stories and underperforming countries in each.
If there is one thing we agreed on at Gastech is that all women, regardless of country or career background need to band together globally and make our voices heard. We spoke about the commercial value that women bring to deal making and we celebrated newfound friendships and connections that will serve to drive value as we drive the energy value chain into the next era.