This post was written by Alicia Weigel.
Here at Mashable’s Social Good Summit (SGS), girls and women have taken the spotlight as we discuss how to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by year 2030. As we collaborate to develop concrete solutions to global issues in gender inequality, among others, many speakers have led us to step back and re-examine gender roles we consider to be fundamental.
Panelist Preity Zinta, Indian actress and women’s rights activist, spoke to the huge strides she has made for women in her country through Bollywood. Cinema has allowed her to reach a huge audience via a popular yet informal medium, portraying strong women as a counterbalance to the more common “damsel in distress” role. The accomplishment Preity was most proud to relay to the audience, however, lies in a different field – a field of grass.
Preity has excelled in the sport of cricket since childhood. She once dreamed of being a professional player but was told time and again it is a “man’s sport.” She found film to be a more promising career path for a female in today’s world. Many people still carry this conception in India and beyond. It is an example of the “unconscious bias” still holding women back that Elizabeth Gore, Entrepeneur-in-Residence at Dell, also spoke to in her session at SGS .
So, how do we reduce this bias? How do we prevent the next generation of global women from internalizing this repressive viewpoint? We must level the playing field with both words and actions.
We can provide opportunities for women in areas traditionally dominated by men, such as yesterday’s Global Goals World Cup for girls. Kristian Jensen, Denmark’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and leader of the initiative, spoke to the importance of this event. He reminded the SGS audience “You can’t win if you have half the population of the world on the bench.” Many of the Summit’s speakers have also referenced the need for more female legislators since representation breeds hope; if women see themselves in positions of power, they can aspire to wield influence themselves one day.
The Social Good Summit has also examined more direct spoken and marketed messages young women and men receive from society and how they affect bias. Speaker Jenifer DeAtley of Engender Health reminded SGS participants that the phrase “man up” is detrimental to gender roles, keeping men from activities traditionally relegated to women. She also spoke to the societal stigma that prevents young men from accessing health services, and the need for clinics to better target their messaging to young men in turn. In doing so, men will take more agency in family planning and responsibility for contraception – burdens women are usually left to bear alone.
The Social Good Summit is a forum for considering aspects of society we often consider to be inherent and a platform for disrupting them. Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States of America, introduced himself as “Jill Biden’s husband” – flipping social mores and foreshadowing better times for women ahead. The event reminds us that it is in our power to determine which societal “norms” will sustain into future generations, and which we can collaborate to eradicate by 2030.