• Isabelle Allen, Partner |

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that we need to work together to solve the challenges we face, including the pandemic, economic downturns, natural disasters and ongoing conflict. Nobody can withstand them alone. Nobody can respond to them alone. Nobody can solve them alone.

Time to reflect and recognize

International Women’s Day is a chance to pause and reflect. And, for me, this year’s IWD has a somewhat different tone than those of the past: more reflective, more intense, more meaningful. It is not about making bold, ambitious statements. And it’s not about ticking a box for our Corporate Social Responsibility agenda. It is about recognizing the critical role women play in the world. And it’s about recognizing the achievements of women across all activities and geographies.

In the Consumer & Retail industry, we certainly have many women to recognize. We can recognize the million female farmers, the warehouse workers and the store associates who are keeping society fed, clothed and entertained through the good times and the times of crisis. We can recognize the female managers, leaders and visionaries throughout the value chains who not only lead their teams and companies through uncertainty and disruption, but do so by embracing science and technology to invent a better way to meet our needs and wishes as consumers while also protecting the planet’s resources.

But we can’t stop there. This is an industry where much work remains to be done. Natural, health and political disasters affect women disproportionally. In addition, entrenched issues like the gender pay gap, unequal and discriminatory access to land and finance, as well as working conditions in parts of the industry need a bright light shone onto them. We need to challenge the status quo. And we need to join the dots between all actors in the chain, working together to provide transparency alongside tangible solutions.

We can't slow down

This year, the need for greater gender equality seems more raw, acute and urgent. But it also seems more at risk and exposed. Today’s business and political leaders face a relentless list of challenges. There will undoubtedly be temptation to relegate gender equality down the agenda in order to deal with more pressing “new” issues, investments and priorities.

More then ever, I am convinced that the only way to solve the challenges that face humanity today is by working together; harnessing the voices, views and value of every human being, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or culture. Diversity is, of course, about much more than gender. But it remains a great place to start.

Reach out and join forces

So on this International Women’s Day, my call to action is very simple: recognize the achievements of women in all spheres and all industries, but don’t allow our progress on gender equality to slow for a minute. And never underestimate the multiplier effect: when we reach out and join forces across organizational silos and borders, we can achieve measurable and sustainable progress.