W20 shapes policy solutions for gender equality
The analysis is stark: without a significant increase in efforts compared with today, women around the globe will have to wait more than two centuries to achieve equality in the workplace. Despite increasing global life expectancy rates, this is longer than any of us will be able to wait – no matter what progress preventative care will make.
This was certainly the feeling shared by the over 800 participants at the recent W20 Summit in Argentina. There was unanimous agreement that we need to do more and work together better to remove barriers faster for girls and women to thrive, take control of their lives, make informed choices and realise their potential. The EBRD, as one of the participants, can take on a key role.
The careful design of policies is a key ingredient for accelerating gender equality. This is where the W20 comes in. Established in 2014, it is a forum gathering global gender thought leaders from civil society, businesses, international organisations and academia.
The aim is to share expertise, experience and lessons learned from around the globe to shape policies that foster gender equality. In 2014, this resulted in the “25 by 25” commitment of G20 leaders: to increase the percentage of female workforce participation by 25 percentage points by 2025.
To achieve this goal the W20 has issued policy recommendations that target persistent barriers for women to fully participate in the economy and society more broadly. These recommendations are the result of intense debates between participants from around the world.
This year, events were held across all G20 countries, including the EBRD shareholders Russia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The resulting policy recommendations were presented to Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina and host of the G20, in Buenos Aires last week. They focus on the following four areas:
- increase and improve women’s participation in the labour force by investing in affordable childcare and introducing mandatory paid parental leave schemes, strengthening equal access to justice and ending sexual harassment at work
- guarantee women’s financial inclusion by ensuring equal access to credit and formal financial services and enhancing the share of public procurement contracts to women-led businesses by at least 10 per cent
- ensure women’s digital inclusion by enhancing their use of digital technologies, boosting digital skills and STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and ensuring women’s participation in the development and application of artificial intelligence
- foster the development of women in rural areas by creating better local infrastructure, entrepreneurship opportunities and access to financial services.
Formulating policy priorities is important, but to be effective these recommendations need to be translated into action by authorities in partnership with industry and civil society.
This is where the EBRD comes in. As a catalyst for the engagement of the private sector with policy makers, the Bank is well-placed to help shape reforms across key gender policy areas.
The priorities highlighted by the W20 align closely with the EBRD’s Strategy for the Promotion of Gender Equality. Gender components are integrated not only into the Bank’s investment across sectors but, importantly, also into its policy engagement – to increase women’s workforce participation, skills and entrepreneurship opportunities and access to vital infrastructure services, especially in underdeveloped regions.
For instance, in Kazakhstan the EBRD supports business partners in the power and energy sector to attract more young women into high-quality technical and vocational training programmes. At the same time, the Bank engages with the authorities to reduce and eventually eliminate the list of jobs that women are currently barred from.
This has resulted in an amendment of the labour code by Kazakhstan’s Minister for Labour and Social Protection on 13 August 2018, reducing the number of banned jobs by 25 per cent and opening new economic opportunities for women across many sectors.
Another example is a programme in Jordan where the Bank enhances access to justice for female entrepreneurs through a ground-breaking capacity building programme for male and female judges, combined with capacity building for female entrepreneurs. In addition, the Bank’s equal opportunities and skills development programmes is linking employers to education authorities to enhance access to STEM and vocational training for young women in manufacturing, property and tourism and other sectors.
The W20 provides a high profile forum to share technical expertise and practical experience on gender policymaking – and the Bank is looking to step up its engagement at that level and contribute towards the formulation of global best practice in this context. The EBRD can make an important contribution to this.
The journey ahead is long, but it must not take another two centuries. Projects and policy initiatives such as those outlined above are needed to make a difference and achieve the shortcut to “25 by 25”.