Pioneering Steps Towards Gender Equality and Inclusivity with Yuriko Backes, Luxembourg Minister for Gender Equality and Diversity
In a recent podcast episode, I had the honor to sit down with the former Minister of Finance and current Minister of Defence, Minister for Mobility and Public Works and Minister for Gender Equality and Diversity in Luxembourg, Yuriko Backes.
We started our conversation by discussing a transformative initiative that marked a significant milestone in the pursuit of gender equality—the Luxembourg Women in Finance Charter and
shared profound insights into her experiences and the broader efforts to promote gender equality.
The Woman Behind the Title
Ms Backes has a long career in the diplomatic and political space. From chargée de mission at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Luxembourg Embassy in Japan, from diplomat to the Permanent Representation of Luxembourg to the European Union in Brussels to deputy head of the Directorate for International Economic Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yuriko Backes has also served diplomatic adviser and sherpa to Luxembourg Prime Ministers Jean-Claude Juncker and Xavier Bettel.
From June 2020 until her appointment to the government as Minister of Finance, she served as marshal of the Grand-Ducal Court. On 5 January 2022, Yuriko Backes joined the coalition government between the Democratic Party (DP), the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP) and the Green Party (Déi Gréng) as Minister of Finance. Following the legislative elections of 8 October 2023, Yuriko Backes was appointed Minister of Defence, Minister for Mobility and Public Works and Minister for Gender Equality and Diversity on 17 November 2023 in the coalition government between the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) and the Democratic Party (DP).
Luxembourg Women in Finance Charter – A Collaborative Initiative
The Minister’s journey through various professional roles, often as one of the few women in the room, offers her a unique perspective on the challenges faced by women in the workforce. Motivated by her experiences she has become a trailblazer for gender equality, recognising the importance of creating pathways for women to ascend to leadership positions.
The Luxembourg Women in Finance Charter stands as a testament to collaborative efforts between the government and other pivotal financial institutions in the country. With an enthusiastic response from numerous financial entities, the Charter focuses on fostering gender diversity within Luxembourg’s financial sector. Inspired by similar successful charters in the UK and Ireland, the Minister recognises the need for a tailored initiative in Luxembourg. This charter uniquely empowers financial institutions to set and pursue their own diversity goals, fostering a more inclusive professional landscape.
As Ms. Backes emphasizes, the importance of the Chapter is not just subscribing to it but implementing reporting mechanisms, as well as making the commitment to track progress through data. This is fundamental for continuous improvement and the pursuit of greater gender balance and inclusivity in the financial sector.
The Charter’s odds for success are undeniable, with over 70 companies swiftly endorsing its principles. But beyond mere participation, companies are encouraged to set measurable goals. The collaboration with the Luxembourg Sustainable Finance Initiative (LSFI) for reporting reflects a commitment to transparency and continuous progress in achieving gender balance.
It’s also crucial to highlight that the task force established for this initiative comprises an equal representation of both men and women. This deliberate balance underscores the recognition of the importance of involving men and encouraging their active participation in this crucial conversation.
In the words of Ms Beckes: “It all boils down to how we can make the best decisions, be it in companies, be it in government, in the interest of our society. And the best decisions will never be made by groups of just men or groups of just women. It will always be well-balanced groups that will be able to make the best decision.”
Nudges for Change
We all know that women across various industries face the same or very similar challenges: inadequate representation of women on panels, the misconception that there aren’t enough qualified women for certain roles, gender disparity in venture capital funding, and the list continues…
For all of these reasons, it’s important that we urge individuals, regardless of gender, to make a conscious effort to include diverse voices. Whether in panel discussions or networking events, the call is for everyone to go the extra mile in addressing gender disparities and promoting inclusivity. Those little nudges are practical, small-scale changes that can make a significant impact. For example, for Ms. Backes that means requesting another woman on a panel along with her, making sure she is not the only woman there; but it can be anything, from adjusting event times to making that extra phone call, these changes aim to address the unique needs and experiences of women in various professional and social settings, which is crucial for building a more supportive and inclusive environment.
Ministry for Gender Equality and Diversity
Originally, the Ministry for Gender Equality and Diversity was titled the Ministry for equality between women and men. So, it underwent a crucial shift and the driving force behind this change, as revealed by the Minister, was the recognition that while gender equality remains paramount, the scope of diversity surpasses the binary confines of men and women. The expanded Ministry now embraces the diverse needs of the LGBTIQA+ community, acknowledging the challenges faced by nonbinary individuals. This strategic move aligns with a broader vision of inclusivity, echoing the European motto of being united in diversity. It’s a matter of respecting the differences, but also seeing that people being different is a right, not a problem.
The Minister is a firm believer that diversity is a strength of our society, and nobody should be left behind. She recognises that there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to gender equality, like fighting against gender-based violence. This is why the Ministry will soon launch a first national action plan to tackle this matter further and more systematically. The Minister has had first meetings with representatives from the LGBTIQA+ community to really listen to their points of view and to their needs, and is really very eager to continue Luxembourg’s progressive stance in this matter.
The Message for Future Generations
The Minister ended our conversation with her message for future generations in which she invites young men and women to pursue their passions and dreams with unwavering confidence. She also encourages women to embrace independence and their own self-reliance. The Minister also reminds young people that speaking out is paramount. Whether faced with personal discrimination or witnessing it around you, raising your voice against such injustices is essential. Stereotyping has no place in our society, and by speaking out against it, we contribute to fostering an environment that rejects such harmful practices. Moreover, she stresses the significance of mutual support among women and recognizing that men can be valuable allies in championing equality for the betterment of our society and the economy.
I’d like to finish this post by thanking the Minister for her time and reminding all of you that by actively engaging in inclusive practices, fostering diverse perspectives, and challenging existing norms, we can create a world that empowers women and contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future. This conversation is ongoing, and it’s time for all voices, regardless of gender, to join in and be catalysts for change.
Listen to this episode -> https://www.buzzsprout.com/1720376/14326766