International Women’s Day is a global celebration held annually on March 8th to acknowledge and honour the achievements of women. While the holiday largely commemorates their political, cultural, and socioeconomic contributions, it’s also a reminder of their ongoing fight for gender equality.
In business, gender bias continues to have a negative impact on women. Globally, women earn only 68% of what men do for the same work. This means women have to work twice as hard to get the same pay. Worse, the pandemic hindered the progress in closing the gender pay gap. According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), women’s labour force participation rate was at only 57%, the lowest it’s been since 1988.
This year, groups around the world are rallying to #BreakTheBias and fight for a world free of discrimination and inequality.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we share four women who are breaking down the biases in the world of business in their own way.
Melanie Perkins is the 36-year-old co-founder and CEO of graphic design platform Canva. She started the company in Australia in 2013 with a vision to make graphic design easy and accessible to all.
When Perkins first attempted to get funding for Canva, she was turned down by over a hundred investors in Perth. But that didn't stop her to pursue her “crazy, big dream”. At 34, she became the youngest woman to run a tech startup.
Apart from leading a $40-billion design software company, Perkins is also passionate about promoting gender equality across her company. She implemented policies to eliminate bias in the recruitment process. As a result, Canva obtained 41% female representation, significantly higher than the industry average of 28%.
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Rachel Eng is the managing director of Eng and Co. LLC, a Singapore law firm that’s part of the PricewaterhouseCoopers network. She has 30 years of experience as a corporate lawyer, focusing on corporate advisory, corporate M&A, REITs and funds, listings, and corporate governance work.
Surviving in a male-dominated environment can be challenging for women, but Eng consistently rises to the top. She devoted her time to establishing an environment and culture in the workplace that allows female employees to grow. Eng received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Diversity and Inclusion by Chambers Asia Pacific and claimed a spot on the 2020 Forbes Asia's Power Businesswomen list.
Adrianna Huffington is a Greek-American author and owner of the behaviour change tech company Thrive Global. She was named among Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world and Forbes Most Powerful Women in Media and Entertainment.
Huffington started Thrive Global with the mission to end the burnout culture in the workplace through sustainable, science-based solutions. She aims to help individuals create healthy habits so they can deal with stress more effectively and pursue careers freely.
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Monica Meldrum co-founded the organic food company Whole Kids. She’s widely recognised as one of Australia's most successful female entrepreneurs and has earned numerous awards for her achievements.
Meldrum created her company after she saw the lack of healthy food choices for her young nieces and nephews. She took it as an opportunity to bring change and build “a healthier, and happier world for kids.”
Together with Plan International, Whole Kids started the School Meals Project for kids in Cambodia. They successfully reached their goal of providing 500,000 nourishing breakfast meals to children across the country. But it went beyond just providing meals. The kids went to school, improved their concentration, and learned new talents to share with their families and communities.
There’s still a long way to go before the world is free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, especially those that press against women. However, the success of these four entrepreneurs shows that women are more than capable of shattering these barriers.
Raise arms with women worldwide and take part in #BreakingTheBias. Support movements that elevate women’s rights and empower them to take a stand against misogyny and prejudice. You too, in the smallest ways, can bring in lasting change and create a gender-equal world.