Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment
On June 7 and 8 the Inter-American Development Bank hosted the 2016 Global Gender Summit, Stereotypes & Opportunities: Women’s Economic Empowerment, organized by the Multilateral Development Banks’ Working Group on Gender. Dianova followed as global leaders from the public and private sectors, multilateral development banks, other bilateral agencies and civil society exchanged best practices and data, and highlighted evidence-based approaches that helped shape the gender equality agenda for the next years.
The “2016 When Women Thrive Report” has shown that the gender gap in labor market is slowly coming to a decrease. Latin America, for instance, seem to be the only region to have within its reach the possibility to get closer to gender equity at work by 2025.Nevertheless, there are innumerous reasons why women are still struggling to meet equity in the marketplace. In fact, the same report concluded that “women are still a staggering 118 years away from closing the gender gap”. For instance, cultural and societal norms continue to play a significant part in the establishment of gender roles which, associated with the lack of investment in childcare facilities, and the lack of benefits and flexibility for mothers, continue to prevent women from fully integrating the workforce. Besides, it contributes to keep a large proportion of women under informal, uncertain, and underpaid jobs, or out of jobs at all.
In this context, Dianova has learned from its field of expertise that women in extreme economic disadvantage experience an extra layer of vulnerability. They are often subjected to violence and exploitation, and they can be exposed to drug trafficking and substance abuse. Not rarely, they lack basic health education on sexual, reproductive and maternal health, and in many cases their children will also struggle to break the cycle of poverty. These facts, though, are only the top of a cruel iceberg that hides a whole set of discrimination that follows the women most affected by gender inequity in the labor market.
The gender gap in the workforce is a broader and systemic problem that affects all levels of the employment pyramid. At this point, the general picture is still not favorable for women: there is a general lack of programs and policies addressing women’s unique needs; we are running low on leadership engagement in gender diversity and on women in decision-making positions; and it is noticeable that women and gender diversity are generally not viewed as key business strategies. In fact, data shows that women’s representation goes down as the career level rises, getting as low as the average of 20% in higher Executive positions. It is imperative to invert these equations in order to move the needle in the gender gap.
It’s a good start to invest in sex-disaggregated data to get the real face of the gender gap in the marketplace worldwide, because “without data equality, there is no gender equality”. We can also make sure that young girls won’t be excluded from highly paid careers in areas such as technology and science. Furthermore, let’s remember the private sector that social development is key for their success, and that women’s economic empowerment is key for social development. Thus, let’s have them set up concrete tangible goals to achieve gender equity and follow up with them. Likewise, we can promote public-private partnerships to achieve goals such as granting women with access to finances, consumers and markets for the success of their businesses. Finally, we have to push for the strengthening of policies that include childcare services, training programs, maternity and paternity leaves, public work programs, and wage subsidies, to drive a truly systemic approach to women’s economic empowerment.
In this sense, the event paid a significant contribution in reinforcing the fact that reducing the gender gap in the workforce is indispensable to boost productivity, to secure better opportunities for children, and to reduce poverty. In other words, it echoed what women’s movements have been claiming for a while: that it is time governments and private institutions acknowledge that providing economic opportunities to all is unequivocally good for the development of our countries and for the future of our nations. And it is time to determinately commit to it, because when women thrive, we all thrive.
Mercer, When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive. The World’s Most Comprehensive Research on Women in the Workplace. Linking Actions to Results. Executive Summary, 2016, p. 17. Available at: https://www.mercer.com/our-thinking/when-women-thrive-2016-report.html, on June 8, 2016.
Ibidem, p. 3.
Ibidem, p. 15.