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Respectfully Disrupting Patriarchy - A Call for Gender Equality at UN Women’s HeForShe Summit

HeForShe Summit

In a world marked by increasing resistance to women's rights, leaders from various sectors, including government, business, non-profits, and academia, came together at UN Women's HeForShe Summit to reaffirm their commitments, share innovative solutions, and enhance collaboration across sectors in the pursuit of gender equality.

Throughout the event, leaders echoed a resounding call to action to respectfully disrupt global inequalities. Michael Roberts, CEO of HSBC US and Americas, and Maha AlQattan, Group Chief Sustainability Officer of DP World, urged business leaders around the world to introduce mechanisms for accountability in making gender equality a business priority. Their call to action underscored the essence of the "Respectfully Disruptive" theme—a recognition that the status quo must be challenged, and that we must chart a new course towards gender equality. Central to this transformation is the inclusion of men as active partners in the journey. 

HeForShe Summit
Photo: Gruber Photographers

“It should particularly alarm us that the attitudes of young men seem to be going backwards, unfortunately,” said Sima Bahous, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. “A UN Women-supported survey showed that 58 per cent of young men aged 16-19 believe that men are better political leaders than women. How then will we achieve equality of women’s leadership?  Nearly 1 in 4 young men believe that there are acceptable instances to hit a partner or spouse.  How then will we end the scourge of violence against women?” 

Ms. Bahous commended the HeForShe Champions from across government, business, non-profit and academia for stepping forward and taking action as gender equality advocates and allies.  

Dr. Joy Buolamwini, Founder of the Algorithmic Justice League and author of Unmasking AI, and Dr. Sasha Luccioni, recently named one of MIT Technology Review’s 2023 35 Innovators Under 35 in Artificial Intelligence, both reinforced the need to balance progress of Artificial Intelligence with the threat of perpetuating and deepening gender bias.  

Dr Joy HeForShe Summit
Photo: Gruber Photographers

The Summit featured captivating performances by poet, activist, and artist Rupi Kaur, who unveiled her unpublished poem "to believe in equality," and Composer, Pianist, activist, and Sony Masterworks recording artist Chloe Flower. These creative contributions served to underscore the importance of holistic well-being in fostering a more vibrant and equitable global community. 

Rupi Kaur HeForShe Summit
Photo: Ryan Brown/UN Women

Underscoring the urgency of the #RespectfullyDisruptive theme at the 2023 #HeForSheSummit, speakers emphasised the role of feminist discourse in combatting harmful ideologies and encouraging men to seek guidance in more positive avenues. 

“Today, if you ask women ‘what does womanhood mean to you?’, every single woman is going to give you a very different and a very valid answer but I’m not sure that posing the same question to men about what masculinity means to them would yield such diverse responses.” - Rachel Lowenstein, Global Head of Inclusive Innovation, Mindshare 

Masculinity experts such as Richard Reeves, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and President of the American Institute for Boys and Men, as well as Michelle Terry, CEO of Movember, called for a new model of masculinity – one that inspires solutions and reframes the gender equality conversation away from a zero-sum game. 

Complimenting these points, writer Christine Emba from the Washington Post highlighted the challenges that many men face today, pointing out that a growing number of men feel lost, unsure of how to navigate their roles in a rapidly changing world. This sense of uncertainty stems from a lack of clear examples and guidance on what positive masculinity entails, leaving many searching for new models of masculinity that align with contemporary values and aspirations. 

The message is clear: it is time to respectfully disrupt the patriarchal structures that impede gender equality and create a world where everyone can thrive regardless of their gender. 

About UN Women  
UN Women is the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. For more information, visit 

About HeForShe:  
Created by UN Women, HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that invites men and boys to act for a more equal world. HeForShe provides targeted platform where a global audience can engage and advocate for the achievement of gender equality in our lifetime. The movement invites people around the world to stand together as equal partners to craft a shared vision of a gender-equal world and implement specific, locally relevant solutions. For more information, visit: 

Watch the Summit recap here:

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