Gender Equality in Economics: Six Things You Should Know

More women than men are living in poverty in both developing and developed countries.

Explainer Published 20 April 2020 Updated 8 October 2020 2 minute READ

Chatham House’s annual International Policy Forum brings together some of the most influential leaders across the spectrum to explore innovative policy ideas for the G20.

1. Women and girls represent 50 per cent of the number of people living in poor households in developing countries and 53 per cent living in European countries.

‘It’s not just about women breaking the glass ceiling or women in board positions — it’s also about women at the grassroots’ says Neelam Chhiber, Managing Trustee, Industree Crafts Foundation, 2017.

Smart and Fair: Recognizing Women's Role in Our Economic Future

2. Many women are excluded from economic decision-making within their own households and receive lower salaries than men in the workplace and also work longer hours.

Sarah Dawson, Senior Director, Sciterion, 201: ‘The international community is starting to discuss gender equality but it needs to be on the agenda.’

3. Women are often excluded from the labour market, do not have access to finances and are denied property rights. Closing the gender gap therefore is not only a fundamental human right but also smart economics.

Julie Linn Teigland, Regional Managing Partner, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, EY, 2017: ‘It takes fantastic role models that are terrific entrepreneurs. It takes fantastic political leaders and ministers to make great policy decisions. It takes strong business leaders to voice our support and to help find the right answer.’

Point 4

4. At the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014, world leaders pledged to reduce the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by 2025. But the changes implied by this target vary across the G20 countries: the gender gaps in labour force participation are largest in Saudi Arabia, India and Turkey, for example, where the differences in male and female rates presently exceed 40 per cent.

Silvana Koch-Mehrin, President, WPL Global Forum, 2017: ‘Once the words have been spoken, the real work needs to begin.’

5. Gender gaps are a challenge across countries at different levels of income: high incomes do not necessarily eliminate gaps as countries’ social, policy and institutional contexts determine women’s economic opportunities.

Anka Wittenberg, Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Head of People Sustainability, SAP SE, 2017: ‘We need to bring all the dominant groups into the discussions so we can create win-win situations for everybody.’

Point 6

6. Closing the gender gap is economically crucial: if every country matched the rate of improvement of the fastest-improving country in their region the 2015 global GDP would increase by $12 trillion — a significant 11 per cent.

Simona Scarpaleggia, CEO IKEA AG, 2017: ‘We should start by assessing where we are: a reality check is extremely important. Then when we can define clear policies and targets that can be measured.’

Since 2013, the Chatham House Gender and Growth Initiative has been working closely with countries hosting the G20 to raise awareness around gender-related issues and ensure that gender equality in the context of growth targets is on the G20’s agenda.

The Chatham House International Policy Forum provides a space for a constructive dialogue to explore innovative policy ideas for the G20. This year’s event showcased finalists of the Chatham House #SheCanWeCan video competition. Take a look at their submissions below exploring the issue of gender equality or find out more about Chatham House’s work on gender issues.