An avid supporter for gender equality in workplaces, Singapore-based Mette Johansson is the Founder & Owner of MetaMind Training and Chair of KeyNote, Asia’s leading directory of female public speakers. She believes that gender equality can be achieved by – empowering women to speak up in workplaces, bringing in gender diversity in offices, and focusing on equity rather than equality.
For Mette, the concept of equity is about taking into consideration the context, situation, and circumstances in order to support each individual based on their needs. On the other hand, equality for her is about treating everyone the same. She insists on equity over equality because equity provides people with what they need to be the best version of themselves.
Cultivating Male Allies
Mette asserts the importance of men as an ally to women’s equity. At KeyNote, she has worked hard to make sure there are enough male allies that support important women’s rights. The allies include fair-minded, empathetic men, who use their power to influence and advance the cause of women’s rights. These men speak up when they witness unfair or prejudicial situations, volunteer their time, and make extra efforts to help women. A great example of an ally at Keynote is that when asked to speak at the event, the men of the firm make sure to accept the invitation, only when they know women are being featured at that event too. Listening to women, asking how as an ally they can be of help, speaking up when needed are some of the many ways in which men at Keynote create a safe space for the women at the firm. Mette insists that the role of men, in this movement is integral, if not more so than women.
Mette understands the importance of women’s rights in this day and age. According to her, it is important to note that the recent gains in the cause of gender equality owe their success in part to the groundwork laid by the older generations of women who fought against the injustice and inequality in the face of overwhelming opposition, often at great risk of life and freedom.
Change in mindset, not in voice
Apart from the increasing number of women in leadership positions, Mette is most proud of the shifting perspectives and changing norms. Talking about the growing number of communities composed of female speakers and thought leaders, she adds that in the 70s, the BBC said that the female voice is not suitable for radio and even today some people still believe that the female gender is not credible to speak on stage. At KeyNote, Mette is determined to change this by giving a platform for women speakers by creating a non-profit online directory for them.
According to research, women who have a strong female support network thrive better. Mette emphasizes on the fact that to anyone in a difficult situation, isolation and a sense of powerlessness is truly devastating. Knowing that there are others who went through similar experiences and discussing ideas of what is right and what must be changed, give women the courage, inspiration and the strength that is needed for them to survive and succeed. KeyNote has created a space for speakers to love and appreciate this global community of shared beliefs, support, and encouragement.
Encourage and Empower
Mette firmly believes that inspiration and leadership are beyond the little boxes that human beings like to put themselves in. Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Tarana Bourkey (Me too), Nadia Murad (Yahidi Women), Queen Rania and Leyman Gbowee (Liberian peace activist, Nobel award winner) are few of the many women champions and leaders, and this proves that women can come from every walk of life regardless of age, background, and appearance. Regardless of sex, sexuality, religion, ability, and nationality, all voices must be heard and listened to.