With International Women’s Day (IWD) having been marked on 8 March and the 63rd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) under way from 11-22 March 2019, this week’s brief provides a snapshot of recent reports and thought leadership relating to SDG 5 (gender equality).
This year’s IWD theme, ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change,’ focuses on innovative ways to advance gender equality, while the campaign theme #BalanceforBetter serves as a call to action to drive gender balance around the world. Speaking to the theme of the Day, UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that innovation and technology “with a gender perspective” are crucial to removing barriers and accelerating progress for equality.
An International Women’s Day annual study conducted with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College in London, UK finds that most people believe that women won’t achieve equality in their country unless men also take action to support women’s rights. The survey titled, ‘Global attitudes towards gender equality,’ asks respondents to agree or disagree with a set of questions, rank the most important means of achieving gender equality, and express their level of confidence in countries’ ability to achieve gender parity in the next 20 years. A summary write-up is available on the IWD website.
CSW63 is underway on the priority theme, ‘Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls’. The draft agreed conclusions recognize recent progress on social protection, education and access to health services, though they stress the need to strengthen the normative, legal and institutional environment; address continued gender gaps and biases in social protection; and strengthen accountability, among other actions. Following on the CSW’s current priority and review theme, ‘Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development,’ the remainder of this brief focuses on recent trends relating to gender parity and the opportunities that arise from closing gender gaps and empowering women.
OECD gross domestic product (GDP) would get a USD6 trillion boost by increasing female employment rates to match those of Sweden.
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest ‘Global Gender Gap Report,’ published in December 2018, benchmarks 149 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: 1) economic participation and opportunity; 2) educational attainment; 3) health and survival; and 4) political empowerment. The 367-page report finds that, although there are many countries where women are becoming leaders in their fields, there remain risks of new gender gaps in advanced technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence-related skills. Overall, political empowerment remains the largest area of gender disparity, whereas health and education are at near-parity.
An article on UN News cites the WEF report data and highlights a projection that it will take over 200 years to fully close the gender divide in the workplace. The piece features an interview with UN Global Compact Executive Director Lise Kingo, who emphasizes unconscious bias and fundamental cultural barriers to women being treated in the same way as men when it comes to work opportunities. Kingo also points to the business case for gender equality, highlighting that “companies that have women in senior leadership levels are performing better financially than companies that don’t.”
PwC’s Women in Work Index 2019 finds an average gender pay gap of 15% in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. The Index further highlights the economic case for gender parity, noting that there would be a USD6 trillion boost to OECD gross domestic product (GDP) from increasing female employment rates to match those of Sweden. Although focused on OECD member countries, the analysis also examines China and India as the world’s two most populous countries. Combined, the two could increase their GDP by USD7.5 trillion by increasing the female employment rate to the level of Sweden.
The Index also suggests five foundations for a gender equal workplace: aligning diversity with strategy; using data; driving accountability from the top; being honest; and setting realistic objectives. A summary of the ranking is available on Bloomberg, PwC’s interactive data tool on the Index is here, and additional PwC content released for International Women’s Day is available here.
A World Bank report examines ten years of data across 187 countries through an index structured around the economic decisions women make as they go through their working lives. Titled, ‘Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform,’ the paper finds significant progress towards legal gender equality over the past decade, though it recognizes that “achieving gender equality requires more than just changes to laws” and that “laws need to be meaningfully implemented” through “sustained political will, leadership from women and men across societies, and changes to ingrained cultural norms and attitudes.” The average global score is 74.71 out of 100, indicating that a typical economy gives women only three-fourths the legal rights of men in measured areas such as starting a job, getting married, having children and managing assets, among others. A summary write-up is available on the World Bank’s blog.
The European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) published a briefing paper assessing whether public-private partnerships (PPPs) can deliver gender equality. Author Maria Romero identifies three ways in which PPPs can exacerbate gender inequality: 1) their increased risk and cost undermines the state’s capacity to deliver gender-transformative public services and infrastructure; 2) private providers are accountable to shareholders, rather than citizens; and 3) the pursuit of profit limits the provision of decent work for women within PPP-operated projects. Romero also makes her case in an op-ed on Public Finance International.
Focusing on the EU, a study commissioned by the European Parliament analyzes women’s representation within the European Parliament and EU institutions, as well as factors affecting gender balance among elected representatives and strategies and actions to promote gender balance. Following desk reviews of women’s representation in politics and EU member States’ and institutions’ strategies and actions for gender balance, and interviews with key stakeholders, the report finds that as of April 2018, just seven of 28 member States had achieved stated goals on gender representation.
Reviewing the viability of solutions such as gender quotas, the authors caution that “quotas are not a panacea for gendered inequality within politics and should not be pursued in isolation.” They also highlight the practice of “zipping,” or alternating male and female names on ballots, which they say can “mitigate much of the bias and disadvantage faced by women in political life by maintaining a high level of demand for women candidates.”