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Economic empowerment of women is the best way to go. What’s holding us back?

Sustainable and inclusive development across the globe, leaving no one behind is the primary goal of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. Equal gender representation and economic empowerment are crucial to achieving this goal, but gender gaps across the globe remain vast, pervasive, and persist. A report from a high-level committee created by the UN secretary-general highlights the successful and promising steps that business, governments and non-governmental organisations, as well as multilateral development agencies could take to bridge the gaps.

We were honored to be co-authors of this document This blog entry highlights a few of the principal conclusions. The full report as well as the briefings on policy are available on the internet. Our latest article on Project Syndicate includes a summary of some of the report’s findings.

Empowering women economically is the smart and right option. Rights of women are human rights. The human rights argument of gender equity is undisputed. The economic, human development and business benefits of empowering women are huge. A more gender-neutral country will have greater education and health outcomes and a greater per-capita incomes, faster as well as more equitable economic development and better global competitiveness.

A well-known McKinsey Global Institute report recommends that closing the gender gap in participation rates in the labor force or working full-time versus part-time and the mix of employees could add between 12 and 25 percent to the global economy in 2025. Other studies, employing different methodologies, have found similar growth.

The business case for gender equality is persuasive. An increasing body of research explores the various ways women can contribute value to every element of the value chain, including suppliers and leaders employees, customers as brand creators, community members.

Companies that have more female equality within their workforces and in their top management reap many advantages. They are better at attracting and retaining female talent, to inspire female employees, be aware of and meet female customers’ needs and tackle complex issues through the inclusion of more diverse viewpoints. A number of recent research studies prove that businesses that have more females in the top management as well as board posts benefit from more economic returns.

Over 90 percent of girls around the world are now in primary school, and more girls than men are finishing college in the majority of areas of the globe. But, despite these advances huge gender gaps remain across all types of employment that are paid or not informal, whether informal or formal, private or public agricultural or entrepreneurial.

In the world, just 50percent of women 15 and over are employed working in paid jobs as compared to 75% of males. However women perform three times as much non-paid work than males. If women earn a wage their work, it tends to reflect stereotypes about gender and pay comparatively low salaries low working conditions, as well as limited opportunities to progress in their careers. In general, women are paid less than men even when they perform similar or equivalent tasks. Women are not represented in positions of leadership in both government and business. Additionally, when compared to companies owned by males businesses run by women are less successful have fewer employees, as well as are clustered in areas which have limited possibilities for growth and profits.

The UN report pinpoints four main causes that hinder gender equality in all aspects of employment and at every level of development: unjust social standards, discriminatory laws and inadequate legal protections gender gaps in non-paid childcare and household work and inequal access to financial, digital and real estate assets.

Social norms affect the economic outcome of women in a variety of ways as they influence women’s choices about what occupational and educational options to explore; they influence the distribution of non-paid work in households, as well as the pay for paid care jobs like nursing and teaching which employ a significant percentage of women; and they reinforce gender stereotypes that are discriminatory as well as unconscious biases that limit women’s advancement and pay.

Negative social norms are included in laws which restrict women’s career choices as well as their capacity to get passports, travel out of their home, establish companies, and even possess or inherit property. A new study from International Monetary Fund analysis indicates that this type of discrimination in the legal system is linked with lower levels of education achievement for women, larger gap in pay between genders and the number of female-owned companies.

Many millions of women perform their jobs informally, and without legal protection – whether in law or in reality – of their rights to social and labor rights. In India for instance there are around 120 million females (around 95 percent of women employed engaged in paid work) perform their work informally, in addition to 12 million females working in Mexico (around 60 percent of employed women). The majority of those who work informally do not have a voice to advocate for better working conditions or better wages. This is especially the case for women who are also subject to physical and sexual assault and limitations on their reproductive rights.

Wide gender gaps in non-paid care and work are a significant cause of a lack of chances for females to earn a living. The care and household obligations of women are evident in a substantial “motherhood pay penalty”. All over the world, mothers who have dependent children are paid, on average less than those who don’t have dependent children and less than men with similar employment and household characteristics. There is evidence for an “fatherhood pay premium”: there is a positive correlation between a man’s earnings and the number of children have he.

The UN report highlights a variety of promising and tested actions companies can adopt to help promote gender equality and increase the opportunities for women to earn a living. Many of the companies taking part at the World Economic Forum are implementing some or all of these initiatives – and some of them are leading in these areas.

In the beginning business owners can determine and eliminate negative perceptions, implicit biases and stereotypes that exist in their own organizations. Research on implicit biases will help businesses create practices that fight gender biases in the area of promotion, hiring as well as pay. A lot of large multinational companies offer mandatory training to managers to identify and combat these biases in the human resources, and there are new platforms for digital development to aid organizations in overcoming these biases.

Many companies are setting targets or other measures to measure progress towards the reduction of gender disparities in retention, recruitment and promotion , and they are connecting managerial compensation with improvement. Regular reviews of pay equity and ingenuous process for paying equity – like the setting of explicit, objectives for the first pay and promotions has been proven to reduce gender pay disparities. The remediation process to close existing gaps are also efficient methods.

The programs for training and mentoring aid female employees in developing their abilities. Programmes to support sponsorship, particularly are proven to be essential in the advancement of women as well as the development of a solid pipeline of female potential.

To draw and keep female workers, employers should provide flexible working hours, as well as paid paternity and maternity leave benefits. Making work more flexible decreases the gender gap when it comes to paid and non-paid work. The demand or preference for flexibility at work affects women’s choices about careers as well as places of work. This is a key reason for that gender gap in pay.

EDGE is a foundation and consulting company , which grew from the World Economic Forum’s efforts on gender equality , led by Nicole Schwab. It was established in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2011. It’s an innovative certification and evaluation tool that businesses and organizations can use to evaluate the extent to which their practices and policies promote gender equality. The EDGE standard has quickly become an internationally recognized standard that certifies the most effective practices of companies to ensure gender equality. Around 110 companies from more than forty countries and 22 different industries are currently participating in the EDGE evaluation and accreditation process. EDGE has recently expanded its certification process to public sector institutions which include those of the World Bank and the Federal Economic Competition Commission in Mexico.

To increase the proportion of women who hold top management posts in business and government increasing numbers of countries have set quantitative targets or quotas. There are more than 100 countries that have some form of women’s quota in their parliaments and 11 countries have quotas to increase the gender diversity of public agencies. Corporate boards are quota-based and are mandated by law for nine different countries.

Companies can also encourage gender equality when they interact with suppliers. Certain companies are working in partnership with public sectors, or civil society organizations to safeguard women workers in their supply chains across the globe. the Better Work programme brings together global corporations, factories in their supply chains government and worker groups to improve the working conditions of factories and ensure the rights of workers in the clothing industry. She Works, a public-private partnership facilitated through the International Finance Corporation (IFC) works in partnership with private companies to improve gender equality and improve chances for women to get jobs within supply chains of companies by providing programs for mentoring, flexible working arrangements, and training for leaders to improve the diversity of management.

An increasing number of international firms are working to provide the economic prospects of women in their supply chains, and to provide specific market-specific training as well as other services to women, typically working in conjunction and with government agencies. A few of these businesses belong to WeConnect International, an non-profit organisation that finds the needs of, and certifies and offers education to women-owned businesses and connects them with certified multinational and local companies. In order to join, companies must commit to have the global program for diversity of their suppliers.

Companies also stand to gain by adding women to their supply chain as retailers and distributors. Unilever’s Shakti program in India was launched in 2000 relies heavily on females and families in order to sell Unilever products in rural areas. According to the latest count, around 70,000 women , along with their husbands and brothers of 48,000 were employed in the capacity of Shakti entrepreneurs and distributing nearly 4 million families across 162,000 rural villages.

Through the past 10 years, as part of their regular Global Gender Gap Report and the World Economic Forum has been the first to draw attention to the widespread and persistent gender disparities in political and economic opportunities throughout the world. The most recent UN report is an appeal to the international community to accelerate the pace of closing these gaps and achieving the dream of sustainable and inclusive growth.


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