Women in business: Building an equal world
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Women in Business: Building an equal world

Women in Business: Building an equal world

Alexia Hilbertidou, changemaker and founder of GirlBoss, tells us why her generation can’t settle for slow progress when it comes to gender parity

Tell us how your initiative, GirlBoss, is helping fight gender inequality, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). What inspired you to start the initiative?
GirlBoss New Zealand is a social enterprise established to address gendered inequality in STEM, as well as in entrepreneurship and leadership. I was compelled to establish the organisation, at the age of 16, in response to my own experiences in school. I was 15 before I met a female software engineer. At 16, I was the only girl in my digital technology class and at 17, I was the only girl studying advanced physics. I started GirlBoss because I knew that something had to change. GirlBoss New Zealand has 13,500 members and runs workshops, internships, online courses and in-school programmes. We’ve grown to be the country’s largest organisation for women.

In your opinion, what do we need to do as a society to encourage gender parity?
Money has been used as a tool to control women for far too long. Now, more than ever, the world needs women to own their financial future. Globally, only 3 per cent of VC funding goes to female led startups. We need to invest in female founders and back women-owned businesses. We know that women are capable and exceptional business leaders. Women should not be confined to any one sphere, they can lead everywhere. The rules of the past are made to be broken.

How do you think the pandemic has impacted this equation?
 The Covid-19 pandemic has heavily impacted the lives of women and girls. Many women have left the workforce to take on extra caring and child rearing responsibilities. The impact of unemployment and recession from the pandemic means women are at a high risk of being the most affected; fields that were the hardest hit – retail, hospitality, tourism and part time work – are generally dominated by women. Gender quality has always needed to be on the agenda, but now, it’s imperative.

How can we empower our children to build a better world where people are not judged by race, gender or economic status?
The 2021 World Economic Forum says it will take 136 years, for the overall gender gap to close.  Despite going backwards last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are generally making “slow and steady progress.” But I’m not excited about slow progress. With the short attention span of my generation, I just don’t think we can wait that long. I am committed to ensuring that mine is the generation to change these statistics once and for all.

Alexia Hilbertidou was in Dubai to moderate ‘ChangemakeHER’, a session focused on young women who are taking charge as the next generation of leaders tackling pressing global issues. The session was held as part of the International Women’s Day Forum at Expo 2020 Dubai on March 9.

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