Mona Sinha on The Future of Women in Business and the World
March 6, 2024
S. Mona Sinha is the Global Executive Director of Equality Now, an organization that campaigns for legal and systemic change around the world to address violence and discrimination against women and girls.

For 25 years, Mona has leveraged her corporate experience to launch, lead or advise over 90 mission-aligned organizations to create a gender-equal world. She was the Board Chair of Women Moving Millions and currently serves on the Executive Council of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, as well as the Advisory Board of Gucci CHIME.

Mona is the Executive Producer of 2024 Oscar nominated documentary To Kill a Tiger, which speaks to male allyship being critical in supporting survivors of sexual violence. She was Executive Producer of Disclosure, an award-winning Netflix documentary on the representation of trans people. She has produced Sell.Buy.Date and My Name is Andrea. 

"In 1970, The World Bank report on Women, Business and the Law concluded that globally, women enjoyed 50% of the rights of men. Today in the third decade of the 21st century, that percentage has grown to 75% which signifies some progress. But there is still a lot more to be done."

Are there any hopeful stats for women and girls at the moment?

In 1970, The World Bank report on Women, Business and the Law concluded that globally, women enjoyed 50% of the rights of men. Today in the third decade of the 21st century, that percentage has grown to 75% which signifies some progress. But there is still a lot more to be done. According to UN Women, it will take almost 300 years for the gap to close. The data presented showed that countries that had risen on the index had more women in the workforce, greater political participation, a smaller wage gap between men and women, and better investments and outcomes in women’s health and education. The biggest progress was noted in high income countries and also in sub-Saharan Africa. There was no one common area of progress across the world although rights to education and health were primary. Undergirding all of these was the importance of having strong and equitable laws in place.

Strong advocacy for women and girls has resulted in greater awareness of the importance of gender equality.In the US, movements for LGBTQIA+ and Black lives have resulted in a push for stronger DEI policies and an understanding of the intersectionality of lived equality. For corporates, a big push on ESG strategies demanded by investors has also led to a shift in mindset and practices. However, there is still much to achieve. If the world were to have gender parity, the global GDP would grow by $28 trillion each year. At Equality Now, we have changed over 85 laws over 30 years. The opportunity is both huge and critical given current geopolitical shifts, a rise in conservatism and unprecedented costs of displacement and climate change. Our areas of work - Building Legal Equality (influencing International bodies and duty bearers), Ending Sexual Violence (which is a harmful and costly epidemic), Ending Harmful Practices (eliminating Child Marriage and FGM) and Ending Sexual Exploitation (both in the physical and the digital space) -are critical to building a world we aspire to live in with dignity and inclusion.

What should corporate leaders be doing to champion the causes of women and girls?

Corporate leaders must realize that gender equality is good for business. It is not just the right thing to do to ensure that every human being has the opportunity to thrive, but also the smart thing to do. It is a known fact that gender diverse organizations perform better as they are more consistently able to recruit, retain and reward their workforce, make better informed decisions that center diverse practices and policies, and have more satisfied employees who enjoy working at organizations whose values align with their own. For example, if Goldman Sachs had practiced gender pay equity they would not have had to pay $215 million in damages to women who had been underpaid for doing the same job as their male colleagues. In addition to recruiting and retaining talent which is challenging in our economy today, it also leads to reputational damage which hampers performance.Championing the causes of women and girls, in both business and philanthropic contexts, allows communities to thrive, as women are known to make decisions that benefit more than just themselves. For organizations that provide goods and services to communities, building a loyal consumer base is key to growth. Ensuring safety of women employees for example, allows for growth in productivity and leadership. Enabling women to fully step into their leadership roles brings a coherence and balance to decision making throughout the organization. Investing in women led ventures builds a steady pipeline of innovation. Again, equalizing opportunities for both men and women has the potential to add $28 trillion to the global economy each year.

What leadership advice has propelled you throughout your career? 

I was advised early in my career to listen carefully to those who do not share my frame of reference or ideology. Listening to diverse opionions allowed me to achieve three important outcomes (1) we learn from difference not similarity, and hence I am able to shape balanced decisions when I practice deep listening (2) my employees and colleagues feel heard and they become part of the solution insead of stalling them (3) I myself grow as a leader as I grapple with issues that are constantly changing and evolving. By listening to those who experience the issues we seek to change, I am able to gain a nuanced perspective on the lived impact of those decisions. I call this the “Both-And” approach. I can have both my thoughts and listen to some that may be very different thereby landing on a multi-dimensional, intersectional and often more creative solution.

Do you have one secret to your success?

I am rooted in an abundance mindset and try to intentionally practice gratitude and generosity. I believe that there are many solutions to problems and listening with empathy is the key to finding them. My “secret to success” lies in living my values to build trust with others.

Who is a woman you admire?

I admire Gloria Steinem, my neighbor and dear friend, who has lived her values with grace and grit for ninety years. She is rooted in creating linked circles where women learn from ancient and indigenous practices that are equal for all genders and not hierarchial. She has stood up for women and brought subjects into mainstream thinking that were considered social taboos. Her love of all people and humility is inspiring and fuel me every day. For me, Gloria is chosen family. 

What’s one thing you can’t live without? 

I can’t live without my family, who provide me with the strength I need to do the difficult work that my team and I are challenged with every day as we tackle discrimination and sexual violence that holds back 51% of the world’s population. Add to that a hot cup of chai each morning and that flips the switch!

What is one big trend you’re excited about in 2024? 

I am optimistic that once we establish good ground rules and governance to prevent the explosion of AI driven image based abuse and sexual violence, we can actually use artificial intelligence to safeguard women and end new and old forms of discrimination, so we speed up the reality of a gender equal world.


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