Yesterday, at Sala Antoine de Paule, San Anton Palace, H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, inaugurated “Artemisia”, an exhibition organised by the Network of Young Women Leaders, celebrating the stories of 100 Remarkable Women, and their narrative of courage, of leadership, and of hope.
The President commended the Network of Young Women Leaders for their commitment to ensure that young women in Malta and Gozo have a voice, and can work together, to promote equity and inclusion within our communities and across our society, whilst noting that the Network is growing, and is undertaking meaningful initiatives, which focus on gender empowerment.
“The Network was not only created to provide a safe space for young women, to come together and to explore their ambitions. It is also encouraging connections between women of different generations, by providing an environment where women, who are already active in political life, can offer their expertise and support,” The President said.
“Although we have, both as an international community, and as a country, made important strides forward to improve gender equality, there is still so much to be done.”
President Coleiro Preca said that inequalities between women and men, between girls and boys, continue to play a negative role in the lives of countless individuals and families, adding that unacceptable discrepancies in terms of women’s economic and political empowerment, are having a destructive effect within our global economies and cultures.
“Women are being paid less; women are being underrepresented in political, social, and economic sectors; and the authentic voices and concerns of women are less likely to be heard in our media and across our culture,” Her Excellency said.
The President also drew her attention towards the crucial need for women to be visible role models in society, stating that “we need more inspirational female figures, to encourage the participation of girls and young women in the social, political, cultural, and economic lives of our communities and our society.” Her Excellency said that for this reason, “Artemisia” is particularly timely and necessary, “because when we talk about motivating young women to achieve their full potential, I believe that we must, first of all, lead by example.”
The President quoted a recent study, co-authored by Esther Duflo, Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics, at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, which highlights the importance of female role models, to determine the attitudes and to nurture the ambitions of girls and young women. The report offers conclusive evidence for the powerful effect that direct leadership, through inspirational women in political life, can have, on the future prospects of girls and young women, and states that localities which had long-serving female leaders, in positions of authority within local government, saw a massive reduction in their gender gap in education for teenage girls, and this was due to the fact that girls had set higher goals for themselves, and worked towards achieving these goals.
The report also states that parents are 25 percent more likely to have higher expectations for their daughters, when women leaders are active role models, creating a home environment to support and nurture their daughters’ ambitions.
The President said that “the study reveals just how far-reaching the inspirational effect of women leaders can be, and should encourage us to implement quota systems, and other strategies, for the inclusion of women at all levels of political and socio-economic life,” adding that in today’s world, some ten countries in Europe, including Norway, France and Spain, have already approved quota systems to ensure female representation on corporate boards.
President Coleiro Preca said that this is an important step forward, towards the closing the gender pay gap, but most importantly, to ensure that inspiring examples of female leadership are present within the corporate world.
“Having women in positions of authority transforms public perceptions, opening peoples’ minds about who can lead, and the qualities that are important in effective leadership. Therefore, there is no doubt that under-representation of female leadership, in positions of influence and authority, is having a negative impact on young women,” Her Excellency stated.
The President said that gender quotas are one strategy which can help to speed up positive change, and encourage the ambitions of the next generation of girls and young women, whilst also stating that our efforts to secure gender equality, and the equitable empowerment of women and girls will be putting the United Nations’ Agenda 2030, and its Sustainable Development Goals into action, in particular, it will show our commitment to implement SDG 5, which specifically targets the particular challenges of poverty, exclusion, and violence that women and girls face, around the world.
On concluding, President Coleiro Preca, appealed for women’s contributions, at every level of our cultural, social, economic and political sectors, and women’s skills, perspectives, and attitudes.
“We must be the champions of social justice, because we have all experienced injustice. We must bring a message of hope, because we all know how hopeless it can feel, to be unfairly held back or side-lined because of our gender. We must be courageous activists for peace and wellbeing, by guiding our national and international policies in ways that are inclusive, fully participatory, and respectful of our diversity,” The President concluded.