Gender and the Twenty-First Century Global Workforce
Equal pay for women’s work. That idea galvanized leaders including ILO Director-General Guy Ryder and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria, who gathered in New York this week to launch the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC). A partnership among the ILO, UN Women, and the OECD, the new Coalition is aimed squarely at helping UN Member States meet two goals: SDG Target 8.5 – equal pay for women – and Goal 5 – gender equality and women’s empowerment. To achieve these ambitions, EPIC will collaborate with UN Women’s Platform of Champions to generate increased awareness about the benefits of equal pay – which including driving global economic growth -- as well as with employers and trade unions to provide a localized framework for implementing equal pay in a way that facilitates country ownership.
According to a 2017 global survey by the ILO and Gallup, 70 percent of women and 66 percent of men actually prefer that women participate in paid work. Yet, the report suggests that unequal pay is one of the greatest barriers to women’s success in the workforce worldwide. Two of the other primary challenges that women face is finding work-family balance and dealing with unfair treatment in the workplace, including sexual harassment and discrimination.
In our recent CFR report, “Building Inclusive Economies,” we aim to turn the mounting recognition that women’s economic advancement spurs and boosts global growth into concrete policy by proposing strategies that could remove these – and other – barriers to women’s labor force participation.
We advise the U.S. government and its partners to:
1. Advance legal reform through diplomatic efforts – The U.S. government should employ a gender-lens when negotiating bilateral investment treaties and trade agreements. Policymakers should also develop an incentives-based model to encourage implementation and enforcement of antidiscrimination and equal pay laws around the world, as well as child and eldercare support systems, such as through paid family leave programs.
2. Increase women’s access to capital and financial services – The U.S. government should partner with the private sector, NGOs, and multilateral organizations to promote financial inclusion by making it easier and simpler for women to open a bank account. This includes expanding access to mobile banking technology and training bank staff on financial tools to advance women’s empowerment.
3. Incentivize economic inclusion – The U.S. government should develop a public-private initiative charged with creating innovative solutions for boosting women’s economic participation. The fund could build off the recently launched financing facility for female entrepreneurs, in partnership with the World Bank, to support services such as business training, networking, and market access programs. It could also contribute to subsidies for childcare centers at marketplaces where large numbers of women work and to tax breaks for companies that move women from the informal to the formal economy or that procure from women-owned SMEs.
4. Promote technology and innovation – The U.S. government should increase investment in time-saving technologies for household labor, such as clean cookstoves, wells and pipe water, and electricity. In addition, the U.S. government should increase support for programs that advance women in STEM fields.
5. Support research and data collection – The U.S. government should lead efforts to close the gap in data on women’s unpaid and informal work. Doing so would help policymakers to reach informed decisions that facilitate women’s economic inclusion.
6. Lead by example – The U.S. government should set an example for the rest of the world by developing domestic policies to advance women’s economic participation. This should include policies targeted at equal pay, paid family leave, affordable child and elderly care, and elimination of workplace discrimination.
By increasing the focus on women's equal economic participation, countries worldwide will see the benefits of investing in a proven driver of economic growth: half their population.
For additional insight on gender and the global workforce, tune in to a livestreamed conversation with Guy Ryder, director-general of the ILO, today at 1:00 p.m. ET on cfr.org.