HeForShe was founded in September 2014 with an impassioned speech by British actor Emma Watson. Her stirring words went viral on social media, opening minds and touching hearts around the globe.
The premise was simple: gender equality is not a man’s issue or a woman’s issue; it’s about our mutual freedom. When little girls are married as children, we are all a little less than we could be; when a man commits suicide because he does not feel safe to show weakness, everyone is a little worse off; and when there is domestic violence in the house next door, it affects my house too. Equality is about interconnection on this common journey, and our freedom and opportunities are all intertwined.
This concept struck a chord with people, and within days of the launch 100,000 men and boys, including one from every country in the world, signed up to be advocates for gender equality. Two years later, there have now been over 1.3 million commitments to the HeForShe website. More than 250 student clubs organically emerged on college campuses, and each week we receive inquiries and updates from people around the world who want to contribute.
Because the overwhelming majority of the world’s leaders are men and many of them also believe that an equal world is a better world, we wanted to work with them too. This led us to found the IMPACT 10x10x10, which engages 10 Heads of State, 10 CEOs, and 10 Presidents of Universities on making 3 concrete commitments to gender equality over a 3 to 5-year period. These IMPACT Champions agree to report back on a yearly basis and transparently share their gender data. While the IMPACT pilot is only two years old, a number of our Champions have already seen outstanding change. Following are some highlights:
- IMPACT Champion McKinsey made its gender parity data public, for the first time in the company’s 90-year history;
- PricewaterhouseCoopers female senior leadership has moved from 22% to 47%
- Tupperware has reached parity at board level, moving from 40% to 50%
- Twitter has implemented a 20 weeks “gender-neutral” parental leave policy for all employees
- Iceland is on its way to ensuring equal pay for all citizens by 2022. The country is currently auditing every single company and in the past three months, the country completed the pilot phase of this commitment.
- IMPACT Champion Malawi committed to ending child marriage and the President passed the needed legislation. By September 2016, more than 14000 child marriages have been annulled in Malawi. More 1200 girls have been sent back to school.
- University of Waterloo has launched a HeForShe IMPACT Scholarship program to close the gap on STEM.
Our hope is that these IMPACT Champions will serve as pioneers in a new era of transparency and ambitious goal-setting to obtain parity in the business world and beyond. In fact, this hope is already bearing fruit as new organizations, individuals and companies come forward and say they would like to make a formal commitment with HeForShe. Our newest initiative called Thematic Champions has led to recent partnerships with global organizations, such as Danone and Electronic Arts who are focusing on creating change in specific areas such as parental leave and cyberbullying, respectively.
These commitments in the name of equality are part of, if I can borrow the title of Nelson Mandela’s biography, the long road to freedom. We are excited for what they may yield and which individuals and organizations may come forward tomorrow. Each act and commitment, no matter how large or small, takes us all a step further on that long road to equality, shared prosperity and freedom.