To mark International Women’s Day, and a month of celebrating women, we asked the Bank’s Director for Agricultural Finance and Rural Development, Atsuko Toda, to share her thoughts on the progress in gender equality that she has witnessed in her career, her work to champion women and her tips for women starting out in the workplace.
1. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It is a day to celebrate women in all aspects of life – professional and personal. We run every day of our lives, so it is great to have a day to remind women to feel proud of what they do, acknowledge how important they are in different situations and appreciate all their contributions. It is not just about women but also the gender-sensitive men who should feel proud and be recognised for the support and respect that they give to the women around them.
2. What progress in gender empowerment and equality have you seen in your career, and what challenges remain?
In my career, I have seen increased gender equality, better listening between people, more space given to both genders, decisions taken in a much more inclusive manner in meetings and on major issues. Challenges remain around lack of respect for professional women of all levels, different treatment for women in junior positions, and the need to make sure that all professionals are treated with dignity.
3. How does your work at the Bank advance opportunities for women across the continent?
The African Development Bank mainstreams gender issues in design, implementation and monitoring of gender outcomes for all its projects. Making sure that women are integrated as equals – as producers, entrepreneurs and workers – and ensuring that benefits accrue to women is critical to the development impact of our investments. Just by integrating women, a project could have a totally different level of impact and outreach.
4. What words of advice would you give to young women starting out in their working lives?
For young women setting up a professional career, create a network of women professionals that you trust inside your organization, have your own informal group of contacts, also nurture women mentors who you can trust. There are specific challenges and career choices that women professionals face and discussing the options always helps to form one’s own solutions.