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8 March 2018

International Women’s Day 2018 – Some progress, much still to be made

It is a year since WorldSkills publicly made its commitment to HeForShe, the United Nations solidarity campaign for gender equality. This was in the main, symbolic – an attempt by our movement to highlight the continued disparity between the opportunities that young women and men face as they pursue careers in vocational skills.

This year more WorldSkills Members have publicly stated their commitment to the campaign – 49 of our 79 Members have now backed HeForShe. We are delighted by this progress but urge more Members to make this commitment to changing gender inequalities in our field.

Of course, symbolism only goes so far. We all have walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. Writing this time last year, we stressed that Skills have no gender.

We have done our best to highlight this throughout our work, every day of the past year, especially at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017. There was some progress at that event, both on the Competition floor, with young women competing in a huge range of skills, and in the Conference halls, where gender was an issue that was raised frequently in all the sessions.

We still passionately believe that young women and young men must have the same opportunities in, and the same access to, vocational education and apprenticeships, wherever they live. When they enter the workforce women they should be paid the same amount as their male peers. They should also receive the same opportunities for promotion.

A changing gender landscape?

Gender politics have been in the news over the past year in a way that they have not for a generation. With the #MeToo movement many companies, institutions, and governments have been forced to look closely at their failings. That this is happening now is of course commendable, but we believe that much more must be done.

WorldSkills UK and the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) have just published a survey which shows that gender stereotypes are still embedded in the career choices that young women and young men in the UK are likely to consider. More than half of young women surveyed (56%) felt that their career options are limited by their gender. While this is a snapshot of the situation in one country, our experience is that these challenges are universal across our Membership.

The voice of our Champions

Last month we held a training session with the latest group of young, former WorldSkills Competitors to become members of the WorldSkills Champions Trust. The week was a revelation for them all and for us, in so many ways. But without a doubt some of the most striking insights came during the sharing of their own skills stories.

For the men in the room it was humbling to hear how every young woman in the Champions Trust had to overcome barriers that simply didn’t exist for them.

WorldSkills is an organization for young people, and this generation is proving in its words and actions that it will not tolerate or perpetrate the injustices that previous generations have. So how better to finish this year’s WorldSkills editorial to mark International Women’s Day than with some of the quotes from our Champions.

Please help us – and them – keep up the fight for gender equality in skills and vocational education not just today, but every day of the year.

"Parents and society should support girls without judging them. They should them all the options they have, not only those that they think would be suitable for a girl. And parents should always encourage the career choices of their children, even if society doesn’t. I want people to look at a girl and say, “It’s really cool what she does“, and not “I think she can’t or shouldn't do that“ – because she can do it!”

Jacqueline, Austria

"Gender equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a human issue. It affects us all. There are many talented women with the interest and aptitude who do not pursue skilled trades because of a lack of opportunity. We have a lot of work to do but we can get there, if we work together."

Bruno, Colombia

"Support from parents is extremely important. I was lucky because my parents believed, that success is not being good in a popular job, but it’s being good in a job you like."

Anna, Russia

"Skilled careers are an excellent career path. We need to be more supportive of women in skills. Women are perfectly capable of doing every skill."

Kieron, United States

"I would love to see some the gender stereotypes in skills be broken down in my lifetime."

Amelia, New Zealand

"Society has to break away from the idea that careers have genders."

Pearl, Hong Kong

"In the 21st century stereotypes are fading. Society is changing. It’s time to eliminate the final stereotypes that are stopping women from entering skills and make it the norm."

Gary, Ireland

"For centuries women have been proving themselves in every field of life and yet we continue to deprive them of equal opportunities. I dream of a generation, a future, where young girls growing up aren't advised on her options but rather she stands up, evaluates the options, and chooses any career in the world she wants."

Chirag, India

WorldSkills Member countries and regions that have taken the HeForShe commitment:

Armenia, Australia, Austria, Kingdom of Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Brazil, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hong Kong China, Hungary, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan,  Korea, Latvia, Principality of Liechtenstein, Mongolia, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand,  Norway, Palestine,  Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,  Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vietnam, and Zambia