Source and credit: TMS

Accelerating Progress

Through Strategic Investment in Women

The 2024 International Women's Day theme, "Invest in women: Accelerate progress," underscores the urgent need to catalyse real change towards gender equality. Seasoned executive Cristina Guida La Licata, who has over 20 years championing diversity and inclusion, believes investing in women is pivotal for driving societal advancement and innovation. Having navigated male-dominated industries herself, Cristina understands firsthand the challenges women face and her experiences fuel her passion for creating equal opportunities through strategic investments in areas like education, economic empowerment, and legal reform.

This Article takes a deeper dive into how we can continue to Invest In Women and Accelerate Progress.

 

What does this year's IWD theme "Invest in women, accelerate progress" mean to you personally? Why is it an important theme?

Investing in women to accelerate progress holds a special place in my heart, as these issues resonate with my personal experiences. Having navigated a male-dominated industry for many years, I intimately understand the challenges and biases that women often face. Yet, nothing deterred me from ensuring my voice was heard and actively advocating for gender equality.

Working in an environment where gender disparities are palpable has fuelled my commitment to championing the cause. I know firsthand what it feels like to be treated differently solely based on gender. It is this personal understanding that propels my passion for creating a world where women have equal opportunities and the right to sit at the table alongside men.
Gender equality is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity for societal advancement. When women are provided with opportunities and resources, the benefits extend beyond individual empowerment to drive positive change on a broader scale.

Promoting gender equality ensures a fair and just society. Equal access to education, employment, and leadership positions not only empowers women but also fosters diverse perspectives in decision-making processes. Research consistently highlights that diverse teams lead to more innovative and effective solutions, making gender-inclusive policies essential for societal development.

The economic empowerment of women has a cascading effect on the well-being of families and communities. Studies show that when women have control over financial resources, they prioritise the education and health of their families, contributing to breaking the cycle of poverty and fostering sustainable development.

Investing in women is pivotal in addressing global challenges. Women's unique perspectives in fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can lead to groundbreaking advancements. By removing barriers and providing equal opportunities in these fields, we tap into a vast pool of talent, propelling progress and innovation.

 

In your opinion, what are the most important areas that need investment to truly accelerate progress for women's rights and gender equality?

 

Top 4:

  1. Education: Investing in girls' education is foundational to achieving gender equality. Ensuring access to quality education for all girls, including in STEM fields, empowers them to pursue diverse careers and break traditional gender roles.
  2. Healthcare: Supporting women's health and reproductive rights is crucial. Investments in accessible healthcare services, maternal care, family planning, and addressing gender-specific health issues contribute to the overall well-being of women.
  3. Economic Empowerment: Creating opportunities for women in the workforce and promoting entrepreneurship can significantly contribute to economic empowerment. Equal pay, fair representation in leadership roles, and access to financial resources are essential aspects of economic empowerment.
  4.  Legal and Policy Reforms: Investing in legal and policy frameworks that protect and promote women's rights is critical. This includes addressing discriminatory laws, enforcing anti-discrimination policies, and ensuring that legislation aligns with the principles of gender equality.
     
     

What changes have you seen in recent years when it comes to investing in women and girls? What progress still needs to be made?

In recent years, there has been a notable shift in global awareness regarding the importance of investing in women and girls. Efforts to empower women have seen positive developments across various sectors. Increased initiatives by corporations to address gender disparities within their ranks, particularly focusing on the gender pay gap and fostering diverse leadership, mark positive strides. Education for girls has received heightened attention, with concerted efforts to remove barriers that hinder access. Scholarships, safe learning environments, and campaigns advocating for equal educational opportunities demonstrate progress. Healthcare initiatives targeting women's health issues, including maternal health programs and family planning services, reflect a commitment to improving overall well-being.

Entrepreneurship support for women has gained momentum, with initiatives providing funding, mentorship, and networks to foster economic empowerment. However, significant challenges persist. The gender pay gap remains a pressing issue globally, demanding continued efforts to ensure equal pay for equal work. Political representation of women in leadership roles requires increased attention and support to bridge existing gaps. Gender-based violence remains prevalent, necessitating comprehensive strategies and resources to prevent and address such atrocities. Access to quality healthcare, especially in marginalized communities, continues to be a challenge that requires sustained investments. Encouraging women's participation in STEM fields and traditionally male-dominated industries demands ongoing efforts to break stereotypes and provide equal opportunities. While progress has been made, legal reforms are still needed in many regions to establish robust frameworks protecting women's rights. Overcoming these challenges requires collaborative efforts between governments, businesses, NGOs, and individuals to accelerate progress toward achieving true gender equality. As strides are made, the collective commitment to addressing existing disparities will shape a more inclusive and equitable future for women and girls globally.
 

What are some positive examples or case studies you have seen of successful investments in women and girls? What was the impact?

In my previous role at my last company, I had the privilege of being part of an extraordinary group of women in the MEA Region as a member of Women of Stellantis, championing the cause of women's empowerment and inclusion within its first global business resource group. With thousands members globally, this initiative seeks to enhance women's influence in business and product strategies. The company's commitment to diversity and inclusion is reflected in a comprehensive strategy organized around engagement, learning and awareness, employer brand, and employee voice. This proactive approach aims to strengthen performance, drive innovation, and better represent the diverse needs of its customers. Observing each woman in this group engage in learning, radiate with brilliance, invest in personal growth, and mutually support one another was the most gratifying reward one could experience in the corporate realm.

 

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for investment to accelerate progress for women in your industry?

Unlocking the full potential of women in the automotive industry is not just about business; it's about empowering individuals and fostering a community that thrives on diversity. Imagine witnessing each woman in our group, not just learning and shining in their roles, but also investing in their personal growth while supporting each other. It's more than a corporate triumph; it's the beauty of solidarity and shared success. Investing in education and training programs becomes an investment in the dreams and aspirations of these women, providing them with the tools to navigate a traditionally male-dominated industry. Leadership development isn't just about climbing the corporate ladder; it's about recognizing and nurturing the unique strengths and perspectives that women bring to the table. Picture the impact of networking and mentorship platforms designed exclusively for women in the automotive field. It's not just about professional connections; it's about creating a sisterhood where experiences are shared, advice is given, and career paths are forged together. Dive into the world of diversity and inclusion initiatives, where the investment is not just in programs but in creating environments where every woman feels seen, heard, and valued. It's about breaking down barriers and building a workplace culture that celebrates differences. Imagine the stories that research and data collection could tell—the challenges, triumphs, and the untapped potential waiting to be discovered. Advocacy and awareness campaigns aren't just about changing perceptions; they're about rewriting narratives and inspiring a new generation of women to see themselves thriving in the automotive industry. And then there's the personal touch of flexible work policies, recognizing that women are not just professionals but individuals with multifaceted lives. Investing in the community, especially in young girls exploring STEM fields, is an investment in the future—the future where the automotive industry is a place where everyone, regardless of gender, can flourish. By engaging in these opportunities, we're not just investing in the automotive industry; we're investing in a narrative of empowerment, growth, and shared success that goes beyond corporate boundaries.

 

Read our Annual International Women's Day piece with perspectives from female leaders across all of our hubs here.


Written by Cristina Guida La Licata

Published on 21 March 2024
 

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