Gender gap: this is how we can build a fair economic recovery

  • The latest dialogues on the agenda have brought together world leaders to discuss how we can mitigate the impact of the pandemic on women.
  • Women have been disproportionately affected by the recession caused by the COVID-19 crisis, due to the sectors in which they work and the unpaid care of children.
  • Here are some of the top quotes from the session on building a more inclusive and prosperous global economy.

Progress towards achieving gender parity has stalled and has even retreated in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women have borne the brunt of the recession, widely dubbed the “shecession,” in large part because they work in sectors most affected, such as retail and hospitality.

It will now take more than 135 years to close the global gender gap, up from 99 years in 2020, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap report.

So how can business, government and civil society come together to mitigate these impacts on women and build a more inclusive economy?

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

The Global Gender Gap Report tracks progress in reducing the gender gap at the country level. To turn these ideas into concrete actions and national progress, we developed the Gender Gap Closing Accelerators Model for Public-Private Collaboration.

These accelerators were organized in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank.

In 2019, Egypt became the first country in the Middle East and Africa to launch an accelerator to close the gender gap. While more women than men are now enrolled in university, women make up just over a third of professional and technical workers in Egypt. Women in the workforce are also less likely to be paid the same as their male colleagues for equivalent work or to move into managerial positions.

In these countries, CEOs and ministers work together over a three-year period on policies that help to further close economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized child care, and the removal of unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Closing the Gender Gap accelerator countries, you can join the local member base.

If you are a business or government in a country where we do not currently have an accelerator to close the gender gap, you can contact us to explore the possibilities of creating one.

The speakers of the Agenda Dialogue were: Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations; Anne Richards, Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity International; Alain Jope, CEO, Unilever; Busi Mabuza, President, Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC), South Africa.

The session was chaired by Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum and chaired by Adrien Monck, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.

Below are some of the key quotes.

The COVID-19 crisis has held back progress towards gender equality.

Image: UN Women

Women leaders can make a difference

Women like IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva have already taken leadership in the response to COVID-19, to introduce tax measures that can ensure the transitions that need to happen to help women, said Mohammed.

Issues like climate, energy and connectivity are all important to women and there is female leadership in all of this.

“Women can run the world” we now have a broader perspective on what needs to happen in areas such as human rights and services, to ensure better inclusion and equality at all levels .

Ensuring equal leadership and participation of women, getting more women to make decisions, leads to better social outcomes. Young female leaders have a positive attitude and bring hope.

She added that more had to be done at the local level, with better use of national resources to “do things differently and see the common benefits of working in all sectors”.

In some places we could probably skip a step, she added, such as the bigger investment in connectivity when education started to shut down.

Policy changes and the exploitation of purchasing power

The pandemic recession hit women harder than the 2009 financial crisis hit male workers, said Richard.

“If you lose your job during a recession, it’s harder to get your income back. The pandemic will affect women for many years into the future, so we need to think carefully about how to mitigate these effects so that they are not passed down from generation to generation. “

Greater diversity in the workforce makes economic sense, said Jope. Women have great purchasing power since they represent 75% of purchases of Unilever products.

The company has extended its diversity and inclusion efforts throughout its value chain. He described four things that worked:

1. Leadership from above, making diversity a strategic priority.

2. Set goals and hold leaders accountable.

3. Policies, which take into account that there are “many ways to work and you don’t have to adhere to a hundred-year-old stereotype”.

4. Highlight the unconscious bias in appointments over a 10-year period.

“Big statements from above are not working. We have to stop admiring the problem and move on to policy and management changes.”

Support women-owned SMEs

Unemployment figures for the last quarter in South Africa show an unemployment rate among women at nearly 50%, for the broad definition (those available to work but not looking for a job), said Mabuza.

“It is unacceptable and unsustainable.” Many women own SMEs and she has seen women entrepreneurs who have had to step back, now timid to re-enter the market.

Financial packages will help, but progress has been hampered by the unrest in South Africa.

There has been a drastic shift in vaccine rollout after companies started holding hands with the government, and it can work with equality as well.

“Targets work because they are measurable.” Now 40% of public procurement must go to women-owned businesses, which will galvanize new energy in the markets.

Unilever spends a percentage of its budget on women-owned businesses, said Jope.

“We can impact hundreds of thousands of women through our value chain, like the Shakti program which helps women in rural India. “

Climate emergency and food systems

COP26 and action on the climate emergency have taught us the power of collaboration at the corporate level, said Richard.

The power of different working groups bringing together common frameworks and coming together has shown that we can make real change. The power of what we can do across our ecosystem shows that we can come together to bridge the gender gap.

In view of the United Nations General Assembly and the Food Systems Summit in September, Mohammed says we need a COVID response that’s more equitable and doesn’t put the burden on women.

Women play a central role in our food systems and the investment opportunities for businesses are enormous. As we resettle supply and value chains, let’s think about how to make them more resilient, because there will be another pandemic.

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