Diverse, Resilient and Viable: Stabilising Economies and Societies Through Women’s Empowerment

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The international forum G20 has an ambitious goal: it aims to improve prosperity for people around the world through sustainable economic growth. Influential economic organizations such as the OECD or the World Bank long since recognized that this goal cannot be achieved without strengthening the economic position of women.

What is the current economic position of women? Throughout the world, including in G20 member states, women are not able to participate equally in society and the economy. On average, women receive lower pay, are less likely to be promoted, and are much more likely to engage in unpaid labour such as housework, raising children, and caring for infirm relatives. Various studies have also shown that it is much more difficult for women to get loans or attract investment.

Women20 In Its Third Year

Women20 is one of the most recent G20 dialogue processes: the objective of reducing the gender employment gap by 25 percent by 2025 (“25 by 25”), which was agreed on by the G20 at its 2014 summit in Australia, paved the way for the inclusion of a new engagement group in the official ambit. In October 2015, the first working meeting of Women 20 (W20) took place in Istanbul as part of the Turkish G20 presidency. Demands and measures were formulated, which were intended to promote the economic participation of women in the G20 Member States and to strengthen their economic power. In 2016, these strands of work were taken up and continued by the Chinese presidency of the G20, and a final declaration (W20 communiqué) was also drawn up at the W20 summit and passed to the G20.

Now in its third year, the expectations of W20 have increased considerably: Germany as a country which has a strong civil society and a female head of government should not only provide a stage for gender equality issues in the G20, but also finally create an active, sustainable W20 network.

Clear Focus

This network will support the G20 in the long term through specific recommendations for action, consolidated advocacy and expertise. These joint recommendations are drawn up by representatives of women’s and social organizations, women entrepreneurs and female economic experts from the G20 countries and international organizations from around the world. The aim is to permanently mainstream the subject of women’s economic participation and empowerment (women’s economic empowerment) in the G20 objectives. An additional objective is to evoke existing political declarations such as the UN’s Agenda 2030 time and time again and call for the implementation thereof.

The W20 topics include the labour force participation of women, equal pay, women in managerial positions, the compatibility of family and career, the evaluation of gainful employment and care work, female entrepreneurship, access to the capital market and closing the digital gender divide.

Mainstreaming the G20

For these reasons, Germany has declared women’s economic empowerment as a specific goal during its G20 presidency, part of its focus on “enhancing viability”. Of course, this topic overlaps with other topics for this year’s G20 summit – after all, 51% of all humanity is female, and global developments impact on women just as much as they do on men. Empowering women is therefore a cross-cutting issue, and the G20 urgently needs to acquire a gender perspective in all of its analyses, working groups and processes.

To date the G20 member states have taken no concrete steps towards creating the conditions necessary for “25 by 25”. The Women20 delegates therefore have clear expectations of the German G20 presidency: under Germany’s leadership, the heads of state and government must commit to drawing up and publishing national plans of action to include measures and objectives in the following areas:

  • Full legal equality – for example, women should be able to purchase land or open a bank account without having to obtain permission from their husbands or other family members
  • Unrestricted access to financial and other resources, on equal terms – it is unacceptable that female entrepreneurs receive comparatively less money for their investments than men in circumstances where the risks are the same or lower
  • Equal access to the market for businesses run by women – to global supply chains, for example
  • Recognition and redistribution of unpaid housework and care work – even women with jobs perform up to ten times more of the housework and family care than working men, and this work is not recognized in any way in national accounts or other economic statistics
  • Equal pay for equal or equivalent work – nowhere in the world do women have the same job security, the same pay or the same promotion prospects as men
  • Equal access to decent working conditions – women around the world are much more likely to work in low-paid jobs, to get caught in the part-time work trap, and to receive little or no provision for old age; all too often, poverty is a women’s issue
  • An appropriate proportion of women in leading positions – only those who sit at the helm can make decisions and play an active role in shaping the future

W20 Germany

Within the framework of the 2017 German presidency of the G20, the National Council of German Women’s Organizations [Deutscher Frauenrat] and the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs [Verband deutscher Unternehmerinnen] (VdU) were tasked by the Federal Government with organizing the Women 20 dialogue process. In order to include the experiences of women’s associations and organizations as well as women entrepreneurs from their native Germany in the process, various “roundtables” will take place in the spring of 2017 and the demands (contents) of the W20 communiqué will be reviewed. A parallel task will involve establishing a network of representatives from women’s associations and organizations and women entrepreneurs from the G20 states.

The aim of the network is to jointly formulate demands for the heads of State and Government, which will be presented to the G20 president Angela Merkel at the W20 Summit in Berlin on 25 and 26 April. The summit in Berlin will conclude the 2017 W20 dialogue process. Responsibility for the process will then pass to the representatives from Argentina, who will assume the presidency of the G20 in 2018. As the umbrella organization of more than 50 nationwide women’s associations and organizations, the National Council of German Women’s Organizations is the biggest women’s lobby in Germany. The Association of German Women Entrepreneurs is a cross-industry trade association which has been representing the interests of entrepreneurially active women in commerce, society and politics for more than sixty years.

For more information on this year’s W20 Summit in Germany visit: www.W20-Germany.org.