Take Elephant Action

It’s 217 years to economic equity between men and women, according to the World Economic Forum. Let’s get there FASTER. To do this we need two things; a SYMBOL to galvanize people emotionally and socially, and secondly,  a PATH based on science and business to show the practical steps each person can take.

In January, I saw this data. I saw the implications to the Sustainable Development Goals. The SGDs need economic equity in 17 years, not 217 years.

Over the last few months, this issue led to moderating an all male panel with 70 women for International Women’s Day – this issue is about us as humanity. This issue led to the launch of Purple Elephant at the ArtScience Museum Singapore in June 2018.

The goal is to enable more of us – me and you – to do just this.

This: Equity this generation.

What is “economic equity”?

What’s this word “equity”? If you approach its meaning with your head, it is like trying to look at something out of the corner of your eye. If you approach its meaning with your heart, you recognize it instantly and instinctively.

Equity is about fairness. Economic fairness is when women who do the same work as men get paid the same. It’s when they have an equal opportunity to own land; they do 70% of the work to produce agricultural goods after all. It’s when power over companies, which manage 50% of the world’s GDP, is split fairly between men and women. It’s about men having the same chances at parenting leave as women. If this seems fair to you, then you understand what economic equity is.

And by the way, when we said “instinctively” we were being literal. Mammals like apes, monkeys and dogs react badly to unfairness.

Why do we need to get there faster? Can we even do it?

217 years is 8 generations. The UN says that Sustainable Development Goal 5, on the empowerment of women and girls, is necessary to make progress on all the other goals. That means that we as humanity will continue to destroy our planet until we have economic equity between men and women.

Humanity has solved complex problems in short time-frames before.

  • How long did it take to put a man on the moon and bring him back? 8 years.
  • How long did it take to turn hunger from a scarcity problem to a distribution problem (Green Revolution)? 26 years.

Yes, we, you and I, people like us can do this in our lifetime.

The Purple Elephant is a SYMBOL

Symbols help express an intangible concept by making it visible and physical for us. Symbols help to galvanize us humans emotionally and socially to take action. The Purple Elephant is a SYMBOL representing the commitment to economic equity between men and women in our lifetime.

Purple = Blue (men) + Pink (women) = this is about all 7.2 billion of us.

Elephant = The elephant in the room = the uncomfortable truth we are trying to avoid and need to address

The elephant in the room is that we need to make RADICAL CHANGES to reach economic equity between men and women this generation, not 217 years. It’s necessary for people, and the planet. It’s about purpose and prosperity. No matter our role, power or context there is something each of us can do.

There is more to the elephant as a symbol — it has cultural meanings that help us to think about economic equity between men and women in new ways.

  • Elephants in the room are the uncomfortable and avoided truths that needs recognition to tackle them
  • Elephants are wise, strong and long lived
  • Elephants are family and social creatures like us
  • Elephants have many angles: 5 blind people feeling different parts and not recognizing the whole
  • Elephants are a matriarchal society
  • Elephants are the clearer of obstacles — both physically and in the Indian Tradition, Ganesha (yes, a divinity is helping this along)

The PATH comes behind that to empower each of us to become a change agent

When someone holds the SYMBOL, the issue is seen and the elephant in the room is revealed. With this, the PATH is unlocked.

To create the PATH we’ve assembled business change tools, adapting them to accelerate economic equity between men and women — so it is equity this generation! There are tools that we as individuals can use and there are tools that businesses can use.

  • Equity Manifesto: Is based on the Agile Manifesto that sparked a revolution in the way that new technology and business runs.
  • Economic Equity Maturity Model (EEMM): Is based on the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) and has been used successfully to change culture in business for decades. You will be able to do this to do a self-assessment and allocate resources in a targeted way that lifts the whole organisation. [PROTOTYPE BELOW]
  • Purple Elephant Certificates and Awards: To recognize and reward the growth mindset of striving towards economic equity. The levels in the Economic Equity Maturity Model are used to assign the certificates as a more formal mechanism of recognition.
  • How-to Guides: Help individuals apply their new perspective in specific contexts. This helps to turn individuals into change agents.
  • Conversation cards: Helps break down what could be a huge conversation to bite-sized entry points of 50 questions that help both men and women navigate this area easily. This helps to turn individuals into change agents.

To create the change in the world, Purple Elephants need to be in our heart, on desks and influencing decisions — to remind us to take the PATH at every opportunity. The more you take the Purple Elephant into the world, the more change it will drive.


Co-authored with Sarah Lewis

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