UN Women executive director and former deputy president of South Africa Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard at the #WeSeeEqual gender equality summit in Mumbai. Photo: Supplied.

As the world celebrates international women's day, UN Women executive director and former deputy president of South Africa Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has urged men to not allow locker-room talk in their presence and to call out sexism in the "dude-space". 

Mlambo-Ngcuka said this at the #WeSeeEqual Summit, where she was a keynote speaker, and where she took part in a panel discussion asking, "What does it take to see equal"?  

During the discussion, Mlambo-Ngcuka said while men who treat women as equals should be celebrated, they should not expect to be showered with praise just for doing the right thing. 

“No one praises a woman for taking a child to school. Helping women raise children and doing homework is what responsible citizens do. We shouldn’t have to congratulate a fish for swimming.”

She further said that to bring about irreversible progress in gender equality takes sustained, intentional action. 

“We need to work together on this wherever those inequalities are present - in schools and offices; in the media; in sports arenas, farms, factories and houses of parliament. We’re driving for practical changes, like supply chain agreements that bring good business to women-owned companies at the same time as we change the narratives about the place and power of girls and women in society – so they are both seen and treated as equals.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka went on to urge companies that work with the UN to help change the world to also “walk the talk", praising P&G, co-hosts of the summit, for actively empowering women in their workforce to achieve gender parity. 

Over the past few years, P&G has been working hard to create an inclusive, gender-equal environment with 50-50 representation of men and women at all levels and all parts of the company.

Mlambo-Ngcuka also touched on the crucial contribution the private sector can make is by raising awareness about gender inequality through their marketing and advertising initiatives. 

“These campaigns can change the narrative that perpetuates gender inequality, as we have seen with the Gilette ad focusing on toxic masculinity and the award-winning #LikeAGirl campaign for Always sanitary products that challenged the notion that doing something ‘like a girl’ is negative.

“No amount of preaching by a woman such as myself can beat a good short advert that comes from companies that are convinced that presenting women in a positive and accurate light is good for business. As UN Women we’ve broadened our partnerships. Together with P&G and other companies we’ve founded the Unstereotype Alliance, an industry-led initiative to end harmful stereotypes often perpetuated through advertising,” Mlambo-Ngcuka explained.

The #WeSeeEqual Summit brought together influencers from across industries including the government, corporate, media and entertainment to deliberate on topics such as breaking bias to see equal; the importance of gender equality at work and home; dual careers; sharing the load; and how collectively we can bring about a change. Guest speakers included South Africa’s television star, businesswoman and philanthropist Bonang Matheba and prominent entertainment personalities from India as well as Egyptian actress Amina Khalil.

The #WeSeeEqual Summit took place in Mumbai, India.