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Men's Crucial Role

Monique Villa: If you want men to share the power with women, you better invite them to the discussion

Monique Villa

October 20 2016

“It is very good business to have women in your workforce, in your management, and at the top management. And many have understood that – but not enough.”

How do you utilize the skills of your organisation to change its culture and implement successful sustainable impact? Since her appointment in 2008 as the CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Monique Villa has transformed the Foundation, launching a number of programmes that leverage the expertise of Thomson Reuters to trigger change, connect and empower people across the world.

Here she talks to us about men’s crucial role in women’s empowerment.


Maryam Behmard for Thomson Reuters Sustainability: And of course, part of the empowerment of women starts with men. Let’s talk about men. What role do they play?

Monique Villa: Well they are crucial. First when you look at the world, men have the power, so when you want them to share the power with women, you better invite them to the discussion and try to convince them. And many are convinced. It is something that is really growing now, but in many countries we have a lot more to do. There was research from the World Bank last year – fascinating – on the legal barriers for women in foreign countries.

There are 155 countries in the world where women need to have legal buyers to do things. For instance, to create a business, to drive a car, to have a passport – they cannot do any of these things without the signature of their husband or father or brother.

So, 155 countries; this means that we have 35 countries maybe where there are no barriers. This is extraordinary. But it’s not women who will change that. It’s men who will change that. And why? Because it makes business sense. Because it is very good business to have women in your workforce, in your management, and at the top management. And many have understood that – but not enough.

Take Bangladesh, for instance. You see the factories, you know? You have 90% women in the factories, 10% men. Where are the men?

Maryam Behmard for Sustainability: They’re in management roles.

Monique Villa: Yes, of course! So then, you have to start to convince them to also have some women in management, and then it will come. But there is a lot of work to be done. But you cannot do it against men. You have to do it with men. You have a lot of experiences in Africa where boys at school are told the problems of girls and women, and then they start to fight for women’s rights, and you have so many of these wonderful examples. You know FGM – the cutting of women. You take a country like Egypt: 90% of the women are cut. It’s huge! But it’s the same. You have to convince men, the eldest in the village or the eldest in the community, that this is not a good thing. And some of them are changing. It’s coming.

But you cannot certainly fight for women’s rights without the men – for me they are the most important.

You take Malala, for instance. Malala is Malala thanks to her father in great part, because it was her father that said, “No, my daughter will go to school, and I will mention that against all odds in Pakistan.” So you have many fathers who are heroes and you have to glorify them and help them and give examples, which we do.

Read the full interview with Monique here.

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