"Women belong in all places where decisions are being made." - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and gender equality champion
We pay tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, US Supreme Court Justice and global feminist icon, who passed away last week.
Since the late 1960’s, Ginsburg has led the fight for gender equality, challenging and overturning the many discriminatory restrictions on American women that still stood in law. She also advanced the rights for stay-at-home fathers and was a life-long advocate for truly gender equal roles at home and in society. She went on to become a Supreme Court Justice and used that position to continue to fight for gender equality and civil liberties. More recently, Ginsburg became something of a cultural icon. Outside of the US, her efforts have won respect and acclaim from Europe to China. Her legacy will continue to inspire younger generations, through her powerful and unwavering work that made the world a more equal place.
Here are a few of the areas she championed that intersect with current events:
Equal Pay: One of the many issues that Ginsburg campaigned for was equal pay, an issue that persists in nearly every economy. Last Friday, for the first time, the UN celebrated International Equal Pay Day, to recognise efforts to achieve equal pay for work of equal value. Globally, women are paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, while also carrying out at least 2.5 times as much domestic and care work. This statistic is reflected in Hong Kong’s own persistent gender pay gap of 20% which is higher than a decade before.
Women at the decision-making table: An example of the progress that Ginsburg championed can be seen on Wall Street, with the historic appointment of Jane Fraser as CEO of Citigroup, the first woman to lead a major bank in the US. The bank’s board will be 50% female when she takes over, with many women already in the executive management team. In Hong Kong, among HSI-listed companies, there is only one female CEO, underscoring the severity of the gender imbalance at the top echelons of business.
Discrimination against working mothers: Ginsburg’s gender equality efforts have been characterised as a “radical project to erase the functional difference between men and women in society”, including traditional concepts around women’s work like child care. This is an issue that strikes close to home in Hong Kong. A new survey shows that less than 25% of the city’s young mothers are working despite over 60% of them wanting to be employed. They are asking businesses to provide job opportunities that include flex work and part time options to fit around caring for children. The Government is also being urged to subsidise child care places so that they can afford to work or pursue their studies.
The gender pay gap, increasing the number of women in leadership and decision-making positions, and tackling women’s low levels of participation in the labourforce, which can in part be attributed to discriminatory practices like those experienced by young mothers, are issues that continue to adversely affect women in Hong Kong, and are key focus areas of TWF’s programmes and advocacy efforts.
Ginsburg’s legacy shows what one person can accomplish, step by step, with determination and courage. Let’s take inspiration from her life and take her legacy forward to drive change and achieve gender equality.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.