Words by Lydia Wang, Head of People and Culture at DiDi
Where are we?
In the last five years we’ve started to see businesses and individuals really examine their contribution – or lack thereof – towards encouraging gender equality, both within and outside of the workplace due to a range of important factors and conversations. While awareness has grown in New Zealand and around the world, the question still remains: what has tangibly changed for women?
To me, it’s a question that can be addressed on two fronts. Firstly, there is the concern of female safety within our everyday lives – this can be both in a working environment or in our personal lives.
It is absolutely vital that both in NZ and around the world, everything is done to create an environment where women feel safe. Secondly, I want to truly see that they are on an equal footing with male colleagues, and are working within an environment that will ultimately see them prosper based on ability, as opposed to gender.
We must ‘Choose to Challenge’
The lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are starting to emerge, and it’s important that we support each other now more than ever, with many dealing with physical health, mental health and financial issues over this period.
We must also make special note of the statistics emerging in NZ – mirrored around the world – showing that women, in particular, have been more impacted economically by the pandemic. This inequitable distribution of economic impact based on gender can be pinned on a number of societal factors, including the fact that women are more likely to work within sectors most affected by the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality, or in insecure employment.
Across most industries, it’s unfortunately become accepted for women to be faced with an inevitable glass ceiling. This in itself needs to be challenged and changed. The pandemic may have given NZ and the rest of the world a wake up call, and a chance to make important changes.
Although devastating on many levels, there have been a number of advancements made as a consequence of COVID-19. The acceleration and adoption of technology has allowed people to stay connected during the last 12 months, as well as shifted attitudes of businesses and individuals toward balancing other aspects of lives outside of work, such as mental and physical well-being and friends and family.
Corporations are increasingly looking towards permanent flexible workplace policies (long sought after by employees for many reasons including childcare) and hybrid working models which will empower workers both at home and work. These have been issues affecting women for years – it’s only a shame that it took a pandemic for the world to see them.
What are businesses doing about it?
I am extremely passionate about the role I play in ensuring that all employees feel secure and motivated and why I am so pleased to see we are looking to make a difference in our industry, when it comes to supporting and empowering women.
We want to increase the percentage of female rideshare drivers in the DiDi community in New Zealand and globally, and have various initiatives in different global markets designed to increase safety for women, both as drivers and riders. These include the launch of TripChoice in 2020 in select markets, including NZ neighbour Australia, a feature allowing women drivers to choose to only pick up women riders.
As we continue to grow our footprint in NZ, we are committed to innovation and action to help women feel safer as they commute, or earn on our platform.
Women in the technology industry play a vital role in supporting innovation and economic development, and I believe there is much more organisations – including ourselves – can do to help women flourish. It’s part of the reason for the recent set up and launch of DiDi’s global Diversity & Inclusion Network (DDIN), which will provide effective policies, resources and an environment for change in this area.
It’s hugely encouraging to see other major global brands and organisations supporting female empowerment and undertaking initiatives that we hope will also generate significant change. The New Zealand Government’s ‘Boosting Female Founders’ is a great start – supporting talented female entrepreneurs can have a positive impact for the region.
I have also admired Cisco’s initiatives through its Networking Academy for some time, designed to encourage and train more women in the IT and cybersecurity fields – two notoriously male-dominated areas but two areas suffering major skills shortages and in need of talent. For long-term success to be implemented it’s essential that initiatives from businesses and organisations are led from the top-down. I am well aware that as a company and an industry, we have the power to exact change through our actions.
The new (equitable) normal
While the recent news agenda has resulted in an increase in discussions around female-inspired initiatives and gender equality, I hope to see the conversation really move forward in the next 12 months through decisive action. The gender pay gap still very much exists in NZ, with women earning, on average, 9.5% less than their male counterparts.
From a ridesharing perspective, females certainly share the same opportunities to earn as males, however we will strive to address the barriers that have seen so few females participate in the local rideshare industry as drivers.
I would also love to see us as individuals take personal action: support those women and businesses doing great things, engage, challenge and take action where necessary. And wouldn’t it be great to see the ‘new normal’ that everyone is embracing gender equity?