Society has gone a long way in allowing women the freedom to express their strengths and abilities in the education and working industry. However, we are just halfway through the journey. There are still quite a few countries that have not advanced with its view on gender equality. According to the World Bank, only six countries – Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden, give men and women equal rights in the working force. Since women make up half of the world’s population, $12 trillion would be added to the global economy by 2025 if there are no gender discriminating laws that hold back women from pursuing their aspired careers in the workforce. (Global Citizen, 2019)
Coco Veda emphasizes great value in women empowerment. We have an all-women operations team that we empower through upskill and training. The support and opportunity that we have offered these women have allowed them to be the breadwinners of their families. All of these women have their stories to tell about women empowerment throughout their growth and journey in Coco Veda. We have gathered all their thoughts and personal experiences through the following interview:
Q1) What does women empowerment mean to you?
“Women empowerment is about encouraging individual women to take action towards their career goals.”
All of us have dreams that we aspire to achieve. However, what sets an empowered woman apart from the crowd is her fighting spirit to stay on track no matter the hurdles that come along the journey. It is simple to say you have a dream, but sometimes we need to ask ourselves how passionate we are to achieve that dream. It takes a much deeper purpose and meaning to be firm enough to stay until the end. There are a lot of challenges that can try to stop you such as gender discrimination or lack of self-confidence. Our Coco Veda team believes that it is not enough to have a career goal. The most important part of being an empowered woman is taking action towards that goal no matter the circumstance or challenges that may come along the way. As we go forth and win through the odds that do not want us to succeed, we inspire other women who have their own career goals too that they are fighting to achieve.
Q2) What initial difficulties did you face when you started working?
“In the beginning, it was difficult to carry the boxes, especially the heavier ones because all of us are women.”
There are a lot of stereotypes that we hear growing up in a very opinionated society. Oftentimes, the statements that we hear repeatedly can get into our heads and we start to believe that they are true. This is especially evident when it comes to gender stereotypes. For instance, studies have shown that only 22% of AI professionals are women, for every female film character, there are 2.24 men, and women are 47% more likely to suffer severe injuries in car crashes because safety features are designed for men. The truth of the matter is people have created this unhealthy association to assign roles to a gender. As a woman or man, growing up and being told that they are more or less capable of doing a certain career or hobby because of their gender, will take away a lot of confidence even before they attempt to try the task. If we portray tasks to be more gender neutral, then we as a society can achieve so much more having both men and women work together with their full capabilities and confidence.
Q3) Do you think working in Coco Veda has empowered you?
“Yes, because Coco Veda has entrusted me to handle the responsibilities in work and be accountable for my tasks.”
A great step to empowering women is believing in a woman’s capabilities. Women should be given opportunities to prove themselves. However, not all women around the world are fortunate enough to showcase their potential. In Equatorial Guinea, women still require their husband’s permission to sign a contract. Women in Bhutan and Pakistan are not allowed to sign their own names if they register a company or get a loan when they start their own business. They have to sign these documents with their father or husband’s name. Gender should not be a hindrance to a person’s freedom to work or attain something for themselves. We all have something to offer on the table and we need each other’s strengths and expertise to achieve greater success. As a woman, we also deserve to receive recognition for our hard work and not be neglected or hidden just because of our gender.
Q4) How do you feel about being the breadwinner of your family? How does your family feel about this?
“I feel proud to have a permanent job to give and provide for my family on a daily basis. However, sometimes I also feel sad because I do not have much time to spend with them and they live far away. As for my family, they feel very happy and grateful for my sacrifice in order to support them.”
I think we can see the gradual change in society’s perspective about gender roles. There has been an increase in the share of women heads of household in married couples, from 21.8% in 1990 to 46.1% in 2019. Over the years, families have become more and more receptive to women breadwinners. The Coco Veda team is a great example of an empowered woman who is willing to sacrifice being away from her loved ones in order to provide for their needs.
Q5) Why do you think so many women are still reluctant to go out and work?
“They might be weak-hearted and are afraid to face the challenges of work.”
Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. I am sure you have heard of this statement before and if you have not, take some time to ponder about what this short sentence is trying to imply. When we choose to hold ourselves back from doing something because of fear, we will always be troubled with the words “What if…” in the back of our minds. Another question we can ask is “Why are we so afraid?”. I think this would lead back to the topic of confidence. People are afraid because they don’t feel secure about their abilities. They are doubting that they are good enough to handle the tasks that lie ahead. This is why training and upskilling women, like our Coco Veda operations team, is very crucial. When women are equipped with the knowledge and training, they will feel more confident to do the task at hand. It is also important to support each other, sharing what we know and in turn, empowering the other women around us. Confidence is contagious, so being confident alone will not only be beneficial for you, but it can also inspire other women around you to be confident in themselves.