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Story | Community
24 June 2021

For women and society, work needs to change, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind tells Qatar Economic Forum

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Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani and Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking during the Qatar Economic Forum

Vice Chairperson and CEO of QF and Hillary Rodham Clinton discuss how the pandemic has “disproportionately” affected women – and why not tackling this issue risks harming economies and communities.

It is time to change a system that is “not working for women” as they try to pursue their career goals while also caring for their families, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, has told the Qatar Economic Forum, Powered by Bloomberg.

Why do women have to divide their work from their family life? That’s not how we operate, and, if we think about women throughout history, it’s not how they operated

Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani

In a panel discussion with Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 67th Secretary of State, the United States of America, on the third day of the virtual forum, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind spoke about how failing to change “the framework of work” in a way that understands the role and the needs of women risks “disrupting our communities into the future”.

The session, titled A Bold Agenda for Female Leadership, focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic has had a different – and greater – impact on women than men, with both their paid workload and unpaid care duties increasing and a loss of work opportunities. It also explored what the pandemic has taught the world about education, and the role of youth in leading global action to fight climate change.

Her Excellency Sheikha Hind said the increasing number of female Bachelor’s degree-holders demonstrates that women are going to be more active in the workplace.

“Women around the world do not now have the resources they had a year ago to support their children,” said Her Excellency Sheikha Hind. “It just shows that the current system is not working for women, and neither was the system that was in place before that.

“Why do women have to divide their work from their family life? That’s not how we operate, and, if we think about women throughout history, it’s not how they operated because a divide between work and life didn’t really exist.

“I hope that we take the time to reflect and understand the role we can play – as non-government organizations, as governments, as the private sector – in really changing the framework of work, and recognizing that it really hasn’t been working for women. The gender pay gap, and gender equality, are topics that continually arise, and this shows that we have not resolved the problem.

Throughout the world, the pandemic obviously affected everyone, wherever we are and wherever we live, but it disproportionately impacted women

Hillary Rodham Clinton

“Putting women on the same line as men is not resolving the issue. We need to have flexibility, and it’s important to understand the impact of women not being involved in their children’s lives and their own lives in a way that is productive and meaningful. That is going to disrupt our communities into the future, and it’s time to change it.”

Highlighting the increasing number of women around the world obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind said: “That shows more women are going to be active in the workplace, and they will try to change the framework we are currently operating in.”

We shouldn’t think of schools as institutions taking away from family life – if anything, they should be completely incorporated into family life

Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani

Secretary Clinton explained that, amid the pandemic, “many of the jobs that women held were eliminated or upended”, saying: “The bottom line is that throughout the world, the pandemic obviously affected everyone, wherever we are and wherever we live, but it disproportionately impacted women.

“We saw the economic impact, and we saw the extra responsibilities that women shoulder as caregivers. That burden, on top of everything else women were having to contend with, has led to a lot of repercussions.

“As we try to come out of this pandemic, both governments and businesses and non-profit organizations have to be particularly attentive to making sure that women’s lives and the burdens they have to shoulder are recognized. I hope that will create some sense of recovery for women across the world.”

We need to instill values not only in our children, but in ourselves, that enable us to understand that it’s not about what you can get, but what you need to get

Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani

Economies and societies “make it really difficult” for people to “manage and integrate making a living and having a life”, said Secretary Clinton, adding: “We need to figure out how to better organize our society and our economy so that working people, especially women, have the chance to fulfil their aspirations.”

During the discussion, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind emphasized the need for parents not to be separated from their children’s schooling, saying: “We shouldn’t think of schools as institutions taking away from family life – if anything, they should be completely incorporated into family life.

“It’s important for us to understand how our children are doing in their education and feel we are part of that community, otherwise both parents and children miss out. We have to ask how we can build communities that ensure learning experiences don’t stop at the school gates.”

Women have been “disproportionately affected” by the work and life challenges created by the pandemic, the Qatar Economic Forum session heard. Image source: مصدر الصورة: Chomplearn، عبر موقع Shutterstock

And she also spoke of the need to redress “a values imbalance in society” if global challenges such as climate change are to be tackled. “We need to instill values not only in our children, but in ourselves, that enable us to understand that it’s not about what you can get, but what you need to get – recognizing what is enough,” she said.

“We cannot protect our communities if we think of ourselves only as ourselves. I’m optimistic that the younger generation understand that, and it’s on us to ensure that this is a sign of success for them, with success not just being associated with how much money you can get, but also with how you look after your community and protect the earth.

“And it’s important for us to even be rethinking the way we think about a successful economy. It may take generations, but the best time to start doing it is now.”

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