Artist's rendering of gender equality

A 100-Year Journey to Parity

April 16, 2021
Women-led enterprises fared well during COVID, but how do we get more?

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, it will take 100 years to reach gender parity—a more equal scale with career diversity, economics, education and society.

Florence Verzelen, EVP, industry, marketing, global affairs and workforce of the future at Dassault Systèmes gave a presentation at Hannover Messe that provided valuable insights for women seeking careers in a male-dominated industry.

“Getting skills in artificial intelligence and digital transition is extremely important to ensure women play a meaningful role in building and shipping the digital world of tomorrow,” said Verzelen.

She highlighted some progress that the modern world has made, beginning in the political realm. Some major successes of slowing the spread of COVID during the height of the pandemic came from women-led countries like New Zealand and Iceland. Verzelen attested these successes to women arming themselves with clarity, decisiveness and technology.

An example she provided was the fast response from New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, who shut down the country and its border early in the pandemic. The next example came from Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir of Iceland, whose technology-led decisions resulted in five times more (free) COVID testing for the country’s citizens—even people who did not exhibit symptoms.

“When you’re a businesswoman, you’re often the only woman in the room, the first woman in your position,” she explained. “You need to keep the position and continue because what we want is to pave the way for the next generation.”

She noted that inclusion of regulations that allowed more family-friendly corporations has helped women attain and retain their jobs, but they need to continue to advance. In order to gain more traction, she suggested a coalition of people to come together and push for the world they want.

“Because there is a gender pay gap in a corporate situation, the one with the higher-paying job is the one that stays working,” she said. “It means that it’s a corporate risk not to act.”

So, how to act? Verzelen gave examples that Dassault Systèmes incorporates at a company level to empower women in and out of its company:

  • At least one woman applicant for each open position
  • A company networking initiative called WIN (Women’s Initiative Network)
  • Spotlighting successful women to empower the younger generation

“We’re not yet there in terms of parity,” she said. “But I’m a lot more optimistic…We know today what measures need to be taken to create parity.

“It’s up to us to create a better and fairer world for our daughters and for our sons,” Verzelen concluded.

Editor's Note: Machine Designs Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) hub compiles our coverage of gender representation issues affecting the engineering field, in addition to contributions from equity seeking groups and subject matter experts within various subdisciplines. Click here for more.

About the Author

Marie McBurnett | Senior Editor, Machine Design

Marie McBurnett is senior editor for Machine Design, covering robotics, 3D printing and design software.

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