The G20 must form a comprehensive strategy to reduce the gender gap and better include women in the workforce, writes Julia Kulik
Since 2008, G20 members have worked together to promote strong, sustainable and balanced economic growth and ensure that globalisation works for the benefit of all people. A central way to do this is to encourage the inclusion and full economic participation of women. Yet the G20 did not address the gender gaps in the economy in a meaningful way until its summit in 2013 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Moreover, it was not until the following year in Brisbane, Australia, that G20 leaders agreed to a hard target and timeline specifically to reduce the gender gap in the workforce by 25 per cent by 2025.
Closing the gap
In the first year of implementation following Brisbane, G20 members complied with this commitment at a level of 66 per cent. This is below the overall G20 average of 71 per cent across 151 assessed commitments on all issues since 2008. Members that scored full compliance with the Brisbane gender gap commitment made investments in affordable childcare programmes. The United Kingdom, a full complier in the first year, announced a £1.2 billion increase in education and childcare spending to help balance the responsibility of caregiving.
Germany, another full complier, implemented a quota system to ensure 30 per cent female representation on company boards. Japan complied fully by increasing access to finance and business training for female entrepreneurs and working to increase the number of women in science and engineering.
In 2015, at their summit in Antalya, Turkey, G20 leaders promised to continue monitoring the implementation of their goal to reduce the gender participation gap. After an additional eight months of monitoring, G20 members scored 80 per cent, a significant increase from the previous year’s score. Those members that received full compliance initiated policies that help relieve the strain of caregiving on one’s job. Canada provided resources for employers to create more caregiver-friendly workplaces. Japan released a report on the treatment of women in the workplace that found that 35 per cent of women in full-time employment had been sexually harassed.
It did not, however, indicate how it planned to respond. The United States unveiled a new policy that requires companies with more than 100 employees to provide annual data on employee wages by gender, race and ethnicity.
Committing to change
The 2014 Brisbane commitment has led to some important progress in reducing the gender gap in employment, and the reiteration in 2015 has continued to hold members accountable. But there is no evidence of a comprehensive strategy by G20 members to meet this goal by 2025, as required and deserved.
All members need policies to reduce the burden of caregiving on women, such as extending maternity leave, offering equal amounts of parental leave, and expanding affordable childcare and eldercare options. The G20 should also target specific industries to encourage female participation, as the G7 did with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), not only to get more women into the workforce but also to get them out of the precarious, low-paying jobs in which they are disproportionately found.
For many G20 members, there is much to be done to end gender stereotypes and discrimination.
Without putting an end to gendered social norms that confine women to traditional roles, gender parity in labour force participation cannot be reached. Policies to end workplace violence and harassment are also needed for female economic empowerment.
When G20 leaders meet in Hangzhou on 4–5 September 2016 they should reiterate their commitment to meeting this goal. Such a statement should increase compliance. The leaders should also make clear their action plans on how they propose to meet the commitment of reducing the gender gap in the workforce by 25 per cent by 2025, and lay out their short- and medium-term targets. Sustained momentum for encouraging female economic empowerment is essential for G20 success.