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Megumi Yamamoto

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The G(irls)20 Summit: The Next Steps Forward

Posted: 05/31/2012 12:05 pm

The third annual G(irls)20 Summit will be held in Mexico City between the 23rd and 31st of May this year, gathering 21 women between the ages of 18 and 20 representing the G20 nations and the African Union. These women will have the opportunity to discuss the questions of opportunities lost with regards to violence exercised against women, and opportunities gained through strategically engaging women in sustainable agriculture. Representing the United Kingdom at this Summit, I am one of these women.

Let it not be said that this summit is all talk and no action -- before we have even met, social networks have been buzzing with our excitement. Already, we have forged a community of women consisting of the organisers, corporate partners and delegates past and present. In the month running up to the summit, we are hard at work reading contextual material, preparing our initiatives, and engaging in critical discussion of our proposed solutions.

Despite major progresses in female empowerment, the United Kingdom still faces some rather tough statistics to deal with. The Poverty Site figures show that women are still more likely to live in low-income households than men: 21% in comparison to their 19%. An Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report stated that women aged 40 earned on average 27% less than their male counterparts, despite Equal Pay and anti-gender discrimination legislation having been in force for over 40 years.

There is no doubt education is a key contributor to the fight against gender discrimination. The EHRC report showed that those with a degree saw an average of a 4% loss in earnings as a result of motherhood over the course of their lives, while women with no qualifications saw an astounding 58% loss in lifetime earnings as a result of motherhood. The same report claims that in classrooms across Britain today, schoolgirls of all ethnic backgrounds outperform their male classmates.

As a young woman about to enter university, these concerns hit rather close to home. Being surprised or saddened by statistics does little to help anyone; in order to impact any change or progress of significance, much thought needs to be given in understanding why these problems persist, and what can be done to help.

I am fortunate enough to have just completed a six-month internship with a global financial services firm. There, I was privileged to meet and work with many female professionals who provided me with such insight and inspiration into the world of women at work. Sadly, these opportunities are as much rare, as they are valuable. One concern raised to me by a senior executive who has had a tremendously successful career while raising children was an issue of role models.

Meet Jack and Jill. They're both applying for the same job. Meet John, their potential employer. When John interviews Jack, he sees a lot of himself in the young man. He can relate to the issues and concerns Jack faces, and they may even share certain interests -- something as simple as, say, supporting the same football team. In turn, Jack feels inspired and engaged, and looks forward to following in John's footsteps. When John interviews Jill, somehow that connection just isn't there. Obviously this is an overly simplified illustration -- it is however surprising how relevant it still is.

The mentoring and leadership development sessions that will be made available to us with the help of our corporate partners such as Google and Norton Rose will no doubt contribute greatly to the successes of this Summit. I am proud to say with confidence that I am one of the many advocates for the 3.5 billion girls and women across the globe. How about you? Join now in sending a message to G20 leaders that girls and women are an important consideration. Sign up for your number in support of girls and women www.girls20summit.com/whats-your-number and follow us live (www.girls20summit.com) on May 28, 29 & 31 as we change the world at the G(irls)20 Summit.

 
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