Beijing at 25: Assessing Women's Economic Progress

Friday, October 2, 2020
Sean Yong/ REUTERS

Lead Economist and Head of Africa Gender Innovation Lab, World Bank Group

Author, The Double X Economy; Emeritus DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Saïd Business School, Oxford University

Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security; Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, U.S. Department of State; CFR Member


Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations; @rvogelstein

Following the twenty-fifth anniversary of the landmark Beijing Declaration, which set strategic objectives for the advancement of women and gender equality, panelists discuss women's economic security and progress since the adoption of the platform.

This meeting is made possible by the generous support of the ExxonMobil Foundation. 

VOGELSTEIN: Thank you. Good morning and welcome. My name is Rachel Vogelstein and I lead the Women and Foreign Policy Program here at CFR, which analyzes how elevating the status of women advances U.S. foreign policy objectives. I'd like to begin by thanking the ExxonMobil Foundation for their continued support for the Council's work on women's economic empowerment. And I also want to remind all of you that today's meeting is on the record. 

Twenty-five years ago, tens of thousands of government officials and civil society members gathered in Beijing for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, where the world first formally recognized that women's rights are human rights and where importantly, 189 nations adopted an ambitious platform for action that called for the full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social, and cultural life. Yesterday at the United Nations, the Secretary-General and member states gathered virtually to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of this historic agreement to celebrate progress since and to assess the work that remains. And next June in Paris, the UN will hold a summit to marshal commitments toward this unfinished agenda.

Today, in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of this landmark conference in the Beijing platform, our discussion will evaluate progress and gaps in one of the areas most critical not only to gender equality, but also to financial health and stability, namely, the economic participation of women.  How has women's economic participation changed over the past two and a half decades? What are the gaps that remain? And how will the current global health crisis, which has devastated women's economic participation globally, shape the agenda forward for the next twenty-five years?

We are fortunate to have with us a terrific panel of experts to help shed light on these questions and help us navigate the road ahead. First, we are delighted to welcome back to the Council Ambassador Melanne Verveer who served as chief-of-staff to then First Lady Hillary Clinton during the Clinton administration and was at the Beijing conference in 1995, representing the United States government. During the Obama administration, Ambassador Verveer went on to serve as the first ever U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women's issues. She has much to teach us about the past from Beijing to this moment, and we're grateful to have her with us. 

We are also very pleased to be joined by Dr. Markus Goldstein, a senior official in the chief economist office for Africa at the World Bank, where he leads the Gender Innovation Lab. His current research is focused on issues of gender and economic activity, and in particular on agriculture and small-scale enterprises. Dr. Goldstein, thank you for being here. 

And we are delighted to host Professor Linda Scott, the emeritus world chair for entrepreneurship and innovation at Oxford University's Saïd School of Business and the author of Double X Economy, a terrific new book about the economic potential of women's empowerment. Professor Scott, welcome.

I'll begin with a few questions for each of our panelists. And then I'll open the floor to discussion. Please do raise your hand virtually to be put in the queue for questions for our speakers, and we'll get to as many as we can. All right, Ambassador Verveer, let's begin twenty-five years ago, and you were in Beijing with then First Lady Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to represent the United States at this historic conference. For those who don't know, can you tell us briefly why this conference was such a landmark for women's rights? And can you tell us about the progress we've seen since then, particularly in the area of women's economic participation and how that compares to progress for women in other areas like health or education?

VERVEER: Well, thank you so much, Rachel. It's great to be with you. And it's great to be with my fellow panelists. I think the word landmark is an absolutely perfect description for what the UN Fourth World Conference on Women represented those twenty-five years ago. It had a goal to really move us farther to an endpoint, hopefully, an achievement of the goal of gender equality. And it recognized that the gap between men and women, that equality gap, was needed to be closed because it was absolutely fundamental to human rights. And in the process to realize that it wasn't just a sort of a gathering, putting good words on a paper, it actually put together 183 countries by consensus, something hard to believe today in this era of polarization, adopted a platform for action. And that platform went into twelve different areas that were critically important to achieving gender equality, including economic participation, women in the economy.

But it also focused on the right to education, the right to health care, the right for women to fully participate in the political life of their countries, in the economy of their countries, to be free from violence, to enjoy legal rights. And when you look at the section on women and the economy, it covered the gamut of everything we are still struggling with today—from credit and capital, to unpaid work, and the burden that places on women, that second shift, to the need to address the informal economy, to issues having to do with discrimination, property rights, inheritance, rights, etc. So, it was a very fulsome recognition of all of the issues that needed to be addressed.

Most importantly, in terms of what Beijing accomplished, was to embed women's rights into human rights, women's rights into international law. And that phrase, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton's "human rights are women's rights, women's rights are human rights" actually echoed around the world and was a catalyzing statement for really moving a whole movement forward to address these issues. After all, it may be stunning for some to hear today that women's rights are human rights. It seems like a very normal statement. Yet, it was quite radical for the time, and it is one that clearly still hasn't been fulfilled fully. Now, in terms of the kind of progress that was made, particularly for economic progress, since I think one of the issues to keep in mind was well stated by then president of the World Bank, Bob Zoellick, who said that gender equality is smart economics.

And when you look at that range of issues that are prominent to general gender equality, one sees where we have come a long way since Beijing. Girls education, for example, we are close to parity, there are still issues, there are issues of quality, for example. But we have made considerable progress in these twenty-five years on that. In terms of violence against women, violence against women was not seen as something criminal. You know, it was more private or cultural. It wasn't anything in which the state had a responsibility to protect women from. After Beijing, almost every country has passed laws having to do with violence against women. Now, all of those laws haven't been fully enforced or researched or implemented. But the laws are on the books. And the recognition today is that this is a criminal act. And the states need to protect their citizens from this abuse. And that matters because just like education, which is critical to the underpinning for what it represents, in terms of a girl, young woman's future income, her productivity and society, we know that violence against women is a break on women's economic participation. And so it too, is critically important. And there have been plenty of studies that show the correlation with productivity in violence against women.  On the economic front, we have not made as much progress, I don't think, as clearly as we need to make. My colleagues are experts on all of this. But when you look at the data, the mountain of data in fact that has come out over these last many years demonstrating the correlation between women's economic activity to growing economies, creating jobs, creating inclusive prosperity. You know, McKinsey said that, you know, $28 trillion could be plowed into the global economy if there were parity. But that parity depends on eradicating a lot of the discrimination that still exists in terms of the place of women in our society.

With the passing of RBG, Justice Ginsburg, there's been a lot of conversation about what she did to end discrimination or discriminatory practices against women in the United States. And when you look at credit, when you look at issues having to do with mortgages or discrimination in education that existed, or in workplace discrimination, pay, the Lilly Ledbetter case that emanated from her dissent, these discriminatory practices, whether in regulations or laws, have been on the books for a long time, in many places, even norms through attitudes. But one of the things we've seen considerable progress in eliminating many of those practices, practices and regulations. I think one of the most exciting areas has been in terms of financial inclusion, particularly in the developing world, in enabling the poor, many of whom still aren't banked, but particularly women to be able to safely save. And to be able to transact financial dealings in ways where the simple cell phone, mobile technology has not only provided the markets, in ways that they couldn't access in the past, but really enabled them to financially transact their business in a very protective way through technology. Technology was not on the agenda, interestingly, in Beijing, but this issue of financial inclusion and markets was and something like technology has come to be still in stages that need to be improved, clearly. But it has had impact. So it was a landmark moment. And it is still that platform for action is still a blueprint against which many of us continue to measure progress for women and girls, both here in the United States and around the world.

VOGELSTEIN: Ambassador, thank you. Dr. Goldstein, measurements against this blueprint are happening in many corners as institutions commemorate this twenty-fifth anniversary, and some have observed that women have made kind of far more progress in the area of health or education as compared to economic participation. In your work as an economist at the World Bank, you track the participation of women in the economy around the world. So tell us specifically what have you seen that's really changed from an economic perspective for women on the ground and the countries that you're monitoring and what hasn't changed and needs to?

GOLDSTEIN: Thanks, Rachel, it's great to be here. So to pick up where Ambassador Verveer left off, I think we've seen a big increase in women's participation in the labor force. That was going on prior to Beijing, but it's accelerated since then, or the growth has continued since then. But where we remain stuck is on earnings. So let me give you some statistics from Sub-Saharan Africa, which is where I work. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women are predominantly farmers or entrepreneurs and in farming, we find that female farmers produce seventeen to 66 percent less per hectare than men. And this isn't because they're worse farmers, it's because they lack quantities of critical inputs like labor, and fertilizer. And also because they get less out of each unit of that. So they're getting labor, for example, at the wrong time of the year because they have to wait until it's done farming for male farms.

In entrepreneurs, coming back to this point about participation in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are actually more female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs. And yet on average, they earn 34 percent less. Again, it is not a problem of inherent ability, it's a problem of constraints. And here the constraints are skills: business skills, sector segregation. So by this I mean when you go to a market in Sub-Saharan Africa, you see it down—if we could leave our house—you would see it down the street here, you're going to find women in certain occupations, which we think are the social norms that Ambassador Verveer was talking about. These are women's jobs. And you'll find men in in other jobs. And men are actually in more sectors. For example, in Ghana, men are in more sectors than women so that there's less competition actually for the male entrepreneurs. And that's why female profits are lower.

And then the third aspect, that sort of constrains female entrepreneurs is finance. Ambassador Verveer was talking about the strides we've made in financial inclusion. And that's awesome. Now we have growth, we have a growth capital problem. So female entrepreneurs can get microfinance and in most places there's been a lot of progress. But microfinance isn't going to grow a business. Thousands of dollars, not tens or hundreds of dollars are going to grow business. And for that unique collateral we see a huge missing chunk of the market, which is prime for innovation, to fix. And tackling underlying causes like this are norms around which occupations are "appropriate" and how we get around the collateral requirement for growth capital. That's how we're going to get to make real progress on the earnings gap.

VOGELSTEIN: Professor Scott, I'd love to bring you in and have you talk about some of the pioneering work you've done with the private sector on women's economic empowerment. You know, in 1995, the tens of thousands who gathered in Beijing largely hailed from governments, from civil society, not from the private sector. If that conference were being held, now, twenty-five years later, how might that be different? How has the role of the private sector in advancing women's economic empowerment changed since Beijing?

SCOTT: Well, I think that the main thing is that the private sector wasn't particularly involved in Beijing, and for a very long time they worked in parallel. You really have the first of them coming in about almost ten years later, about 2004, I believe the Exxon Mobil Foundation was the first in the space. And since then, of course, you've had some other big players like Walmart, and Goldman Sachs and Coca Cola coming in. However, they have done some really good work during that period where they kind of worked parallel. They focused on some very important research working on some very noteworthy efforts to integrate women into their supply chains and support female entrepreneurs. And those lessons have been really important. And some of those early tests are, I think, ready to scale at this point. And so I think it's very important to start engaging with them, and perhaps someone but more direct way. I know that some people, particularly in government and civil society are still a bit anxious for ideological reasons about engaging with the corporate sector. It's my opinion that that's not particularly appropriate because it trades women's best interest, what for ideology. And I think we need to look at the practical benefits of doing this.

I think that there are basically four benefits, one of them is obvious, probably to this whole audience, which is funding available to be able to do some of this work. I think the second thing is also somewhat obvious, and that is direct inclusion of women, such as with supply chains that they're able to do. And the third thing is that they have, which I think people are not paying enough attention to, is that they have systems that are different and parallel to government systems, that are really important economic systems. And it's important for us to start recognizing that those are a resource that should not be ignored, and we should not try to ignore them. I think the last thing, too, is another one that's perhaps not noticed and that is that they have relationships with governments already and that those are often of a slightly different nature than international relations are and can often be transformed into something positive for the women's economic empowerment movement also.

I think that what we really need to do at this point, I think, is engaged in a little bit more practical engagement between the corporate sector and the government and civil society. Something that is a little less about federal opportunities and puffery. I'm a little bit, frankly, tired of big events where the head of the civil society organization or the International agency calls in on the corporate executives and gets their commitment—like how many hundreds of times have we've seen that? It's beginning to be, I think, a bad look, again, because it trades an opportunity to do well on the part of women with just in my opinion, grandstanding, it's not particularly effective. I think it can be effective if the people who truly are involved with the execution of these projects and know what they're about, and what it's going to take are included in the discussions. When those things happen, the people who can really make it hit the road can go back to the corporation and get the job done. Otherwise, in my opinion, the CEOs get back in their limousine and turn their attention to something, somebody else does something else. And that's the end of it. So I think we need to be a little bit more hard-nosed about this and a little bit more responsible to the women. I think we need to keep in mind that that is the agenda, and not something else. So that's what I would like to see us get to work with the private sector. I think they're ready. I think there are many that are keen to engage, and we should take the opportunity.

VOGELSTEIN: So we've now got a sense of the road we've traveled from 1995 until today. And Professor, thank you for some of those concrete recommendations on what the path forward might look like. But I want to talk about the current moment we're in. Ambassador Verveer, it's been nine months now since the COVID crisis began. We're mired not only in a global health crisis, as we know, but an unprecedented economic crisis. And despite some of the progress that you all have talked about this morning that women have achieved since Beijing, there are some experts who are suggesting that the twin crises we're facing threaten to setback women and the economy as much as fifty years or more. So can you talk about some of the biggest challenges to women's economic participation in this moment and what we should do to meet them? Ambassador Verveer, let's start with you.

VERVEER: Well, it's obviously an extremely difficult time because as you said, so well, Rachel, a lot of the progress that we've seen could well be pushed back in ways that we never fully recover. I think there are several things to keep in mind. First of all, while this terrible contagion is an equal opportunity effector, it can affect men and women, boys and girls, women have been disproportionately affected. And one of the biggest things we've seen is the ways the inequalities have been exposed. So the very things we've been talking about that have not created a full-equality world, those very inequalities have been exacerbated by COVID. We’ve seen it in health care, because women, I think, 70 percent up around the world have been the health care providers, they're exposed to the greatest risks in terms of economic dislocation. This is one of the first times certainly in terms of the more industrialized countries we've referred to this as a female recession. In fact, some have referred to it as a she session, because the jobs loss that are being incurred are disproportionately losses that women are incurring by nature of the kind of work that they engage in. It's been work in the service industry or in hospitality, in terms of retail, easiest jobs to basically do away with, usually at the more-bottom spectrum of employment. It's been disastrous in the developing world, obviously, where the informal economy has had a very difficult time.

People, you know, as Markus said, whether in agriculture or in those small business areas, market's gone. There's been some significant effort by some. What comes to mind is the Self-Employed Women's Association in India, which I think is always sort of trying in very innovative ways to move forward in a desperate situation, regardless because they work among the poorest women. But, this has hurt. These impacts are very serious. And then you compound these impacts by the uptick of violence against women, which is happening every place, and what that represents in terms of affecting women's economic participation, but certainly their well-being.

And beyond that, you've got the fact that children aren't in school, childcare isn't available, and what unpaid work represents, what that burden of the second shift, as it's called, represents has loomed very, very large. In fact, today, just scanning the news, I noticed both the New York Times, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal have major stories about the economic dislocation for women in the United States. And almost all of the stories talk about the need for women to leave jobs, even existing jobs that could be done remotely, because of the childcare burden. So this is a very big issue.

I think one of the most important things going forward is that we apply a gender lens to whatever responses are going to be put in place because of this disproportionate impact it has had on women. So initially, emergency responses: we have got to help people get an income, be able to put food on the table, be able to pay their rent. We need what is required in terms of an emergency response in all of its aspects. Today, as Americans, the fact that a second-response legislative package hasn't been put through yet. And what are we seeing and hearing? Massive job losses every single day. Well, this has tremendous impact because women have made so much progress in our own economy. 

I think in the longer term we are going to have to look at paid leave, we're going to have to really address the childcare issues. These issues have been marginal. They're not marginal. We have to look more at what the new normal is going to be. It will probably have a lot to do with the role of technology, telework, the ability to ensure that those gaps that women and particularly poor women have had, and in terms of access to technology that we're seeing in learning with the students today has to be addressed. I think what Markus was saying about the tremendous need the world over for capital, I think for women it's been around $300 billion, globally. That is going to be another critical need for small businesses to be able to recover. And that's a lot of women small businesses, they tend to be smaller. But they are a huge part of the economy in our own country, and certainly true the world over. It's tremendous dislocation, tremendous impacts, and we've got to think both short term and long term. And we really do have to apply a gender lens to the response that needs to be made.

VOGELSTEIN: Dr. Goldstein, you're focused in particular on Sub-Saharan Africa. Can you talk a little bit about how COVID-19 has affected women's participation in that region? How are female entrepreneurs, for example, doing? Are they struggling more than men? At the same rate as men? And how have measures to protect public health affected women entrepreneurs in particular?

GOLDSTEIN: Sure. We've been working with the OECD and Facebook to collect a survey, which is called the Future of Business Survey. This goes to everyone who has a registered Facebook business page. That's an interesting sample. And globally. Let me give you four figures that we've seen. This is going to follow on again some of Ambassador Verveer's points. First, what we found globally is that firms are closing, which is I don't think a shock to anyone. The survey goes out every month. In May, we saw that 26 percent of firms closed due to COVID. This has there's been some recovering so this was down to 15 percent globally by the end of August. The second thing we're finding is that female firms are more likely to close. Globally when we control for region, they're 5.9 percentage points more likely to close back in May. And this has come down to 3.2 percentage points at the end of August. The third factor is that women are more likely to close when the lockdown is more stringent. So looking at how stringent a lockdown is, in the countries with the most stringent lockdowns, 40 percent of female firms are closed. And for men, this is only 30 percent. There’s a 10 percentage point gap in those most stringent lockdown countries in the in the least stringent lockdown conditions it's only 3 percent. Right? So this response, which Ambassador Verveer gave us some sense of why because they're in service industries. They're in industries that need large gatherings. These things are disproportionately, these very necessary public health responses, are disproportionately harming female firms. 

And then the final statistic I want to give you is around childcare. I see it because my kids around a lot more—they may show up at some point during this meeting. But in May, we found that in Sub-Saharan Africa 26 percent of the female entrepreneurs who were still operating, were spending more than six hours per day on childcare and domestic duties. Men are also doing more, right. 18 percent of male entrepreneurs reported spending more than six hours, that's a lot for a male by global statistics. It shouldn't be, but it is. What's interesting to me too, is that the North American figures were even slightly higher than Sub-Saharan Africa. There 30 percent of female entrepreneurs running a business and spending more than six hours on care and 20 percent of men reported that. So I would echo what Ambassador Verveer said, as we respond to this, we definitely need to take this into account. And one thing to think of is that men have been exposed to doing more during this crisis. The burden has been disproportionately female, but this gives us an opportunity, I think, to really make a big deal of this in the policy space.

VOGELSTEIN: Professor Scott, I want to pull you in particularly on the issue of childcare, which you've talked about is perhaps the most significant barrier in this moment to women's economic participation in this COVID economy. What is the private sector doing to respond to this grave crisis? What should they be doing to meet this challenge? And how have the barriers that Ambassador Verveer and Dr. Goldstein just outlined affected the commitments that private sector companies have made to for example, source from women owned businesses or improve women's economic participation?

SCOTT: First of all, I want to echo what both Markus and Melanne have said. And that is that this is a global inequality with a global pattern. And the pandemic has thrown that pattern into high relief. It is the same in every country in terms of women being clustered in certain industries and their lack of access to capital and part-time versus full-time work. All of these things have contributed to the disadvantages of women under these circumstances. But there is nothing else that is having a bigger impact or a more potentially dangerous impact than the lack of childcare. And I say dangerous, because many international agencies are holding up a red flag right now and saying women stand to lose their progress over the last fifty years over this. And I cannot emphasize enough that this is not a false alarm. And that it will impact the Western countries just as much if not more than anyone else. And this is going to throw women, if it continues, back into a situation of economic dependence on men and we do not want that. That is not good for anybody. I think it's something to really take seriously.

And it also shows, like Melanne and Markus have both underscored, that this is a situation that requires a gender lens to be applied on everything. And I do not see governments doing that. I do not see leadership during that and it is foolish. Women contribute too much to the global economy to just be leaving them off the table. It's self-destructive to keep doing that. 

Let me answer very quickly about supply chains and then move on to the to the childcare thing if I can. I'm going to probably do something that's not entirely maybe welcome. But in terms of the supply chains, because it is a long answer, if I can just point people to the fact that I've got a recent article in the Financial Times that talks about why women are disadvantaged in the supply chains, which I think is important, it's not their fault.

All right. The second thing is that, if you see fit to buy my book, or read my book, there is a chapter in that book that outlines in detail what kinds of very specific on the ground barriers there are to women entering into corporate supply chains. And I've also shown what the international community and the governments can do to fill those gaps. And I think it's really important because the corporates can't just flip a switch and let people into supply chains. That's just not something that can happen. 

I do see and hear from friends on both sides that women are being increasingly ignored in the supply chain issue around the world, that people think that in a crisis they have to attend to the men because that's more important, and it's not more important. I would like to echo what Melanne started with, which is that focusing on women is smart economics. But I think also what the pandemic is showing us, it is also a crucial approach to humanitarian objectives, that we suffer specific tragedy and suffering when we leave women out. And that's really important. 

Okay, specifically with childcare. We knew before we went into this, that childcare is the single biggest barrier to women in every aspect of the economy and in every country in the world. As far as the private sector goes, personally, I think it's a cop out to be looking to them to solve this. And I don't think that we want that to happen if we let the private sector or we rely on the private sector to do this, you're going to end up with a really scattershot network of daycare centers and prepays. And they're going to vary a lot in quality and the poor are going to be significantly left out because they're going to put it near corporate offices. And that's going to not be equal. I really think that it has been obvious since at least the 1970s that the governments have to do this, that this is their job. And if you are going to have an equal high quality, affordable system that is evenly networked around the world, this is what you have to do. And I think they've been shrugging their responsibility and passing the buck, that saying the private sector should do it is just another way of hiding the fact that it's their responsibility. And I think what we're seeing here is how dangerous that has been. And I also think that it's just time for them to step up and do what they need to do. They need to deal with it. Childcare is economic infrastructure. And that is really obvious right now. And so there's just frankly, no excuse. Sorry, but that's my feeling.

VOGELSTEIN: Professor Scott, thank you for sharing that and for the sobering picture that you've painted. I want to open the discussion to our participants and our members. So please, raise your hand virtually, through the Zoom raise hand function, and we'll turn it to your questions.

STAFF: Gives queuing instructions. We will take the first question from Ellen Chesler.

Q: Hello, everybody. And thank you for this wonderful conversation. You kind of begun to answer my question by talking about childcare, but in a world we hope we'll inhabit in January. What are the first priorities of the State Department and USAID and other agents of public policy in Washington with respect to these issues?

VOGELSTEIN: An agenda for the next administration, Ambassador Verveer, why don't we start with you?

VERVEER:  First of all, I want to thank Ellen for her extraordinary work. She did a wonderful article looking back on Beijing. So thank you for that, Ellen. I think clearly these issues have to be front and center issues. We don't know where we will be on the COVID trajectory when the administration, new administration or continuation of the current administration, proceed. I think first and foremost, it will be to look at the emergency that we've been discussing these impacts around the globe and to ensure that gender is mainstreamed into the responses. I think that's one of the biggest initial agenda items is to get us through this period. 

You know, it's often been said that in a crisis, you also have opportunity. Well, we won't have the opportunity unless we really put our minds to it. And that's going to depend a great deal on the decision makers. It's never been easy, no matter who's been in power to make these gender issues or the component of the gender piece in policy development be predominant. And that's been true. As we've developed food security, it's been true as we've worked on what needs to be done to enhance women's economic opportunity, and all the myriad ways. This has got to move to the center. I think that's another big, if not fundamental, consideration.

And then beyond that, it would be just the whole listing of the kinds that will be needed, of the kinds of responses that will be needed, from putting childcare once and for all on the national agenda in terms of dealing with it legislatively. It will mean looking at leave policy. We're the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't have a maternal or paternity leave policies. We need leave policies, family leave policy that exists is not paid leave. And we're seeing that that's desperately needed.  We need to address when it comes to our foreign policies. There's been a lot of activity or policy development of a kind, looking at what to do for women entrepreneurs around the world. Well, that all needs to be advanced in terms of everything from capital to markets, to training, to technology. So it is just a rather fulsome agenda. And I would say, initially, the most important thing will be to get us through this COVID period, certainly first with emergency responses that are critically necessary. Applying that kind of gender mainstreaming in terms of all the responses, and then looking at these pressing issues, and Linda is right on with the childcare. You know, we've been trying for years and years to address the need for affordable quality childcare in the United States, and we haven't done it. Maybe now we will understand just how tremendous these impacts are. For our economy, for our people, it is humanitarian at its core, and then certainly true the world over, we can't negate our place in the world. And we need to desperately improve our standing in terms of being what we have been, in terms of our role, globally.

VOGELSTEIN: Dr. Goldstein, from your perspective at the World Bank, what would you like to see the U.S. government and perhaps other governments do in this moment?

GOLDSTEIN: Well, I think one big thing is not to forget the rest of the world. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia you see huge poverty increases looming on the horizon as a result of the economic recession that you were talking about earlier, Rachel. I think that's critical. And then to support what Ambassador Verveer was talking about: let's build in a gender lens to this response. So in the World Bank, there's been, you know, the World Bank has been busier than I've ever seen it in fifteen years and moving faster than I've ever seen it in fifteen years. I didn't realize we could actually move this fast. I'm still catching up. The first wave was PPE health system support. The second wave was macroeconomic support, because there's huge budget gaps in some countries. The third wave has been the social protection, the income support. And this is where you start to say, okay, we're in a huge rush. But let's make sure we bring in the gender element. Target the funds to women. We know that this generally has good outcomes for household members. But it also has good outcomes for women's businesses, women starting businesses, women growing their business. And then there are elements, you know, you have to be quick, but think of things like, okay, we want to deliver these transfers via mobile phones. Well, this is a great time to start closing the mobile phone gap and make sure women get mobile phones. I think there's an opportunity. There are opportunities here to make advancements, but we need the support of the donor countries. And we also need to move quickly.

VOGELSTEIN: Professor Scott, what would you put at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda come January?

SCOTT: Oh, I think it's time for them to expand the amount of money they spend on giving international aid to women. It's, you know, they do it, but it's a tiny slice of their budget. Like Markus says, we know this works. We know this is a need that has both household and macroeconomic effects. And yet we're holding, you know, we're being tight fisted about it. And I really think that that is something that really needs to happen. I would totally agree with what Markus says is not to forget the rest of the world, the United States. It's not good for us to do that. It's not good for our own food security, our own geopolitical security. And it's just wrong. We need to we need to step forward and take responsibility for the rest of humanity. And that really, if we focus on women, that's a good way to do that.

VOGELSTEIN: Thank you. Next question.

STAFF: We'll take the next question from Latanya Frett.

Q:  Hi, good morning, everyone. Thank you so much, Rachel, and others for doing this. It's such a refreshing conversation after sitting through UNGA, yesterday and all of the speeches. And I think one of the things that I wanted to just lift up: I'm coming from the Global Fund for Women, where we're definitely struggling with supporting our partners through COVID. And as all of you mentioned, not so much the public health problem, but more in most of the countries where we have partners around the economic realities that many people are having to deal with. And many of the women that we've been talking to and receiving requests from are really coming from these intersectional communities of inequalities. So thinking through vulnerable geographies, the climate crisis, challenged by disabilities, black trans women have been particularly targeted.

I would love to hear from you and sort of picking up where Professor Scott left off, you know, beyond the U.S., how we look at in a growing circumstance, since Beijing, of any qualities and multiple inequalities, how we look at bringing them into the fold, or as Ambassador Verveer talked about, bringing things to the center that we haven't done since Beijing.

VOGELSTEIN: Latanya, thank you for that question. Professor Scott, why don't we start with you, since you were just talking about expanding from the U.S. to other parts of the world? How should we address overlapping forms of discrimination and inequality that are so salient right now?

SCOTT: Right. So I'm hearing also, though, a question about intersectionality. And I think, I'd like to kind of frame it in those terms. In this research that I did for this book that just came out, I really was painfully aware of the fact that we don't have enough data to look at women in in intersectional ways outside of the United States. And actually, we have very limited ways within the United States, at least from an economic point of view. So as much as I know, people don't like to hear what we need is more data. We need more data. I don't think we have enough data right now to generalize. And I don't think I'm definitely I think we have enough data to structure effective interventions. And so I think the pressure needs to be on data. It's going to be difficult because intersectionality works differently from country to country. The experience that we have with race, for example, in this country is not replicated in the rest of the world. There are other racial differences, but they don't, they haven't played out the same way historically, and so they're not comparable. And so we need to be very aware that intersectionality has some very particular nuances. But yeah, I mean, that's got to be one of the next steps that's we need to go there.

VOGELSTEIN:  Dr. Goldstein, how are you addressing this at the Bank?

GOLDSTEIN: I would agree with what Linda said, which is we need more data. And, you know, I think there's been a huge push on data on gender issues. In the last ten years, I think you'd sort of see this real escalation, Data2X has been out there doing wonderful stuff, and making more of it available. But this intersectionality is sort of the frontier, I think, Professor Scott's hitting it right on the head, that we need to start collecting this in the developing world and understanding it better. I think, some parts, you know, some, parts and some dimensions of intersectionality are well understood or better understood. In South Asia, there's probably more than Southern Africa. One easy intersectionality is poverty and gender inequality, and that we have plenty of data on. And so you know, here, I would not understate the impact of cash transfers. You know, so just some work we're doing on a program that USAID funded actually, in northern Nigeria, you see norms. Again, these are very, extremely poor, some of the poorest women in the world, right, by any objective standard. And norms are that they shouldn't work. But when you see the cash transfer come in the house, you see 30 percent, on the order of a 30 percentage point jump in their labor force participation, right, they start businesses, they're still in the house, there's still norms against mobility, 76 percent of them are still operating from home, but the profits go up. Right, and that makes the household better off. And the interesting thing is their friends who didn't get the cash transfer, but who are just as poor also start businesses. So there's, you start to see this growth, through the economy, you know, through the village, economy of these women, opening businesses. So that's one we can focus on and, and there's a good tool for.

VOGELSTEIN: Ambassador Verveer?

VERVEER: I want to focus on poor women, along the lines of what Latonya also mentioned. The Global Fund works with a lot of extraordinary women's organizations around the globe, poor women at the grassroots level who are on the front lines. There is a great fear today that many of those organizations will not be able to survive. And it comes at a time when they're, the kinds of services they render, are more important than ever. So I think we need to keep in mind, Linda said, we have, beyond the shortfall in terms of assistance, the kinds of foreign assistance or development assistance programs, we need to see those as prominent at this time. And we need to ensure that women's organizations in particular, which are doing that essential work at the local level, and whether it's what Markus talked about in terms of the small businesses or the agriculture related work, it is going to be absolutely paramount in how the recovery goes forward. So I think that has to be front and center. 

I think the second thing we have to remember is we've made a lot of progress on girls’ education. The great fear today is that with the lockdown with girls, and boys, but certainly girls in this case, out of school, they will not return to school, many of them. This is going to lead to additional social problems, from child marriage to exploitation of girls, and we're already seeing manifestations of that. If that educational piece is retarded in a significant way, there will be a huge price to be paid for all of society.

And thirdly, I would say you mentioned climate, Latonya. What we're seeing in terms of the most impacted areas, the poorest areas where farmers can no longer cultivate their land because of the damage of climate. They're not arable lands anymore. And so you've got movement of populations, you have displacement. We have got to invest in women's work in this space, as well, in terms of their ability to mitigate, to adapt, to be able to have a life that where they can continue to move forward instead of the situation many are finding themselves in. So we have the confluence of so many things happening right now. And I think at our detriment do we silo any of them? But, investing in poor women, is going to be all important.

VOGELSTEIN: We're at the conclusion of our meeting. I wonder if I could ask each of you for one final word on the greatest opportunity you see to build back the economy in a way that is more inclusive given this moment that we're in, and also importantly, to finally achieve the full vision of women's economic participation articulated in the Beijing platform. If there was really one issue that you put at the top of the list, what would it be? Ambassador Verveer, let's start with you.

VERVEER: Well, I'm just going to repeat. And I think that of all the things we need to do going forward, we need to keep the gender integration piece front and center. Because if we don't, and all of the responses that are going to be made, whoever the actor is, government, private sector, whomever, we are going to miss out significantly in what needs to be done, not just for our economies, all important as that is, but for the kind of social progress we need to continue to see

VOGELSTEIN: Dr. Goldstein?

GOLDSTEIN: Yep, I would totally agree with that. Two specific things we could focus on in the immediate term is how we give out the cash—whether it's income support to workers, or support for businesses, thinking about putting a gender lens on that and get the childcare discussion started now.

VOGELSTEIN: Professor Scott?

SCOTT: I think the thing I would prioritize is something that we can all individually contribute to, and that is, we need to raise public awareness about what's happening. I think the press is covering the gender aspect of this and one-off articles, and we need to have better coverage. And I think we need to use social media so that women themselves in the public understand just how bad the situation is and how urgent it is. I think that needs to happen all over the world so that women will stand up. We need to give them the information they need to stand up effectively. I think this is one place where the Western countries do need to have a little bit more emphasis because of the impact the Western countries have on the emerging countries in terms of the flow of funding. But this is something everybody, I mean, I imagine everybody listening right now has some access to social media. And this needs to happen. We need to push awareness. That's my view.

VOGELSTEIN: Well, it is clear that while we have seen progress since 1995, that much more work remains and today's discussion really helps illuminate the path forward and reminds all of us what we stand to gain if we can finally unleash the full economic potential of women. So please join me in thanking our distinguished panelists for sharing their insight with us today. And thank you for joining us at the Council.

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