ACN celebrates International Women's Day

The ASEAN CSR Network joins the international community in commemorating women from all walks of life, especially those within the region.

On this special day, we celebrate the successes of the global women's movement, highlighted by an increasing number of women in the work force--a jump from 1.5 to 1.75 billion within the last decade. We recognize that these achievements are significant steps towards building a better society where all genders are perceived as equal.

However, despite these significant strides in gender equality, women all over the world still suffer from exclusion and prejudice. In Southeast Asia, the gender gap remains significant, particularly in terms of job opportunities; income inequality; ownership of land; and security and well-being.

womensday business

A recent global study by Grant Thornton shows that while more businesses have at least one (1) women in their senior and executive ranks, the spread of these women in these positions are very thin, and the diversity quite low, especially among those in developed economies where established systems and ingrained behavior are much harder to disrupt. This reflects the current inability of translating intention into real practice of inclusion.

The exclusion of women also exists in the issue of salary. The Asian Development bank reports a pay difference of 30% to 40% between men and women in the same line of work within ASEAN, because of various factors including career breaks for pregnancy, and even outright discrimination due to gender stereotypes.

Likewise, women in other industries face similar challenges. Many women in farming, which totals to 40 million globally, are deprived of their rights and protection to property. Despite being vital contributors to the production of the world's food, women still lack security and legal rights to the ownership of the very land that they cultivate. This is a stark difference to the entitlement received by their male counterparts; demonstrating the perpetuation of patriarchal traditions that have been curtailing gender equality in the agricultural sector.

womensday farmer

Nevertheless, we are happy to see major improvements towards gender equality in Southeast Asia, which includes the recent surge of economic participation of women.  Still, much is left to be done, and it is our duty to ensure that these successes are sustained. Our network believes that engaging businesses and other sectors of society will help close the gap.

ACN is united with women and with groups that advocate for gender equality in dreaming of a just world where men and women have equal opportunities for growth, and equal access to resources in the workplace. Through our efforts to push for women's empowerment, we envision breaking structural and cultural barriers that continue to hamper the advancement of women's rights. Our network hopes that our promotion of responsible business practices would pave the way for the fair treatment of all women at work; safer work conditions; and better security for women in all sectors. More importantly, ACN is steadfast in our commitment to support the integration of gendered perspectives into the core values of the private sector as a whole. We, therefore, urge businesses to adopt and endorse the Women Empowerment Principles* in order to align their companies to the interest of women in the workplace, marketplace, and the community.

To all the hardworking women in ASEAN and around the globe, we salute you. This special occasion is to honor your strength and resilience amidst adversity, and to continue to fight for your rightful place in the world.

Happy International Women's Day!

*The Women's Empowerment Principles Toolkit can also be found here.