By Peter Yobo
As a young boy growing up in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, I had a bright future ahead of me. As the only son in my family, I was expected to go to school, get a job and be successful enough to take care of my parents. They set the same expectations for both of my sisters.
Most women didn’t have such opportunities, however. In most families, the eldest son was expected to follow the same path I did, and parents would send that son to the capital if they were financially able. They would send younger brothers to school if they could afford it. If not, those sons moved in with another family member who could put them through school. The girls were made to stay home, to help with the chores or on the farm while they were prepared for marriage.
I was very surprised to hear about gender equality initiatives, because the playing field in the U.S. for women seemed much more equal than in Ghana; it was amazing to me that American women could go to school, get jobs — even oversee the work of other men. This is something often unheard of in Ghana.
In my admiration of the opportunities afforded to women in this new country, I didn’t realize right away that women here faced other forms of gender discrimination. So after 10 years here, I asked some of my female friends, “What does being a woman in the U.S. workforce look like?” Luckily, people forgive foreigners for asking questions most people find awkward.
The conversation opened my eyes to some of the issues women in the U.S. face, such as compensation inequality, work-life balance (something that men in the millennial generation also say they experience) and inadequate support from men. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, women earn just 78 cents for every dollar men make.
As I learned that gender equality issues also exist in the U.S., I became increasingly proud to work for PwC, which supports the United Nations’ HeForShe initiative to accelerate global momentum toward gender equity in the workplace. HeForShe’s mission is to engage men as agents of change for gender equality.
We believe this is an important time to bring our men into the conversation. As an impact champion, PwC has committed to taking a number of actions to support the HeForShe mission:
- Develop and launch an innovative male-focused gender curriculum with global reach
- Launch a Global Inclusion Index to further increase women in leadership roles
- Raise the global profile of HeForShe with PwC people, clients and communities
These are the types of initiatives that firms can undertake with the right leadership, and we encourage other companies to think about how they can join this important global conversation. The more men and women play an active role in each other’s successes, the more we can all realize our full potential, which will benefit individuals and organizations.
Men, I challenge you to courageously engage our female colleagues in open, honest and vulnerable conversation, even if the dialogue feels slightly awkward.
I am an advocate for global gender equality. I am HeForShe. I hope you’ll join me.
Image courtesy of the author
Peter is a consultant with PwC Advisory and specializes in helping organisations realise financial and operational improvement through organizational, process and technology change. He has consulted with companies in the Technology, Information, Communications and Entertainment sectors. Peter is also very passionate about Diversity & Inclusion and as a proud supporter of global gender equality, Peter took the HeforShe pledge.