“Achieving gender equality is about disrupting the status quo - not negotiating it.” — Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women
We hope you all are staying safe and keeping your spirits high while we continue to weather through this latest outbreak of COVID-19.
From norm-shattering speeches to new research and economic well-being, here are a few highlights of developments around gender equality:
Calling out systems of abuse: US Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, made international headlines in her response to Congressmen Ted Yoho using verbally abusive language about her and offering an unconvincing apology afterwards. She eloquently used this incident to highlight the culture “of accepting a violence and violent language against women, [and] an entire structure of power that supports that.” She carefully deconstructs commonly held excuses given by individuals who use this language to shield them from taking responsibility and the critical role language plays in shaping our attitudes towards women. Watch her speech in full here. The Congresswoman’s speech resonates with us at TWF, and we know there is work to do here to eliminate harmful attitudes and language that demean and diminish women’s equal value. We have addressed various aspects of this issue through our campaigns and incorporate discussions among our Male Allies to better understand biases and micro-aggressions.
Stalled progress for women on boards: New research around board diversity from The Pipeline reaffirms what we already know about board gender diversity: it’s profitable. FTSE 350 companies whose executive boards have a third or more women are 10 times more profitable than those who have no women at board level. With only 13.7% of board directors being women on the Hang Seng Index, TWF and the 30% Club Hong Kong have been working to change the ecosystem preventing more women from being appointed to listed boards – from investors to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and nominating committees.
COVID-19 and women’s unemployment: The harmful economic effects of the pandemic are starting to be felt around the world, and as companies begin to make some difficult decisions, women are paying the price. Japan has reported the economic downturn has affected women three times as much as men. In the United States, the Women’s Policy Institute noted women’s job losses outnumbered men’s in nearly every sector. While we do not yet know the full impact of COVID-19 on working women in Hong Kong, we do know that women comprise nearly 60% of sales and service workers and that service-oriented businesses in hospitality, F&B, and retail will be adversely affected. We urge the government to adopt a gender lens when formulating the city’s economic recovery plan to ensure women’s specific needs are taken into account.
Gender Stereotypes in Hong Kong: This past week, we submitted a letter to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) following a social media post on their “Keep Clean Ambassador Ah Tak” page featuring a scantily clad woman in a bathing suit – entirely unrelated to the post content informing the public about dengue fever. When the post was blocked by Facebook due to not meeting community standards for adult nudity and sexual activity, the editor of the post photoshopped a cartoon face overtop and left the rest of the image as is. The post received many likes for what was perceived to be a harmless joke used to promote good health practices. When the case went viral, the project-in-charge of the PR agency proudly explained in his article to Standnews that he spent years developing Ah Tak as "毒男" (a gender stereotyped image), which explains why the post received great support from his follower base.
We were disappointed to hear of this incident and we have urged the FEHD to work more closely with their PR firms on all of its relevant social media and traditional media platforms to prevent future posts that similarly demean women and exacerbate harmful gender stereotypes.
These developments raise important points around the complexity of issues facing women and girls –cultural and economic, institutional and systemic. At TWF, we will continue working across sectors and across communities to address these challenges and collectively work towards building an equal city for all.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.