News story

Greening: UN panel ‘major step' towards closing gender gap

International Development Secretary hails first ever meeting of the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

Picture: Simon Davis/DFID
The new panel will help more women around the world to access jobs. Picture: Simon Davis/DFID

A new UN panel will help women around the world to get jobs, overcome discriminatory laws and reduce the burden of unpaid domestic work, Justine Greening said in New York on Tuesday 15 March.

The UN High Level Panel, which held its inaugural meeting at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, is a group of leading politicians, expert economists, charity heads and business leaders brought together to kick start a global movement that can help get millions of women into the workplace.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

I am hugely proud to be part of the first ever meeting of the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment which marks a major step forward in the battle to close the gender gap in economies around the world. We now need to work hard to make sure it delivers real change for the world’s poorest women.

Women’s economic empowerment is not just about financial independence and basic human rights, it’s also a major lever we can use to boost the global economy because a country cannot successfully develop when half its population is left behind.

Greening is a founding member of the panel, which also includes Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President, and Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzanian Vice-President.

The panel is chaired by Luis Guillermo Solís, President of Costa Rica, and Simona Scarpaleggio, CEO of IKEA Switzerland.

Picture: Ryan Brown/UN Women
The first meeting of the panel took place at the UN's Commission on the Staus of Women in New York. Picture: Ryan Brown/UN Women

The panel will produce a report for the UN Secretary-General containing recommendations on how to improve economic outcomes for women around the world. These recommendations will then be taken forward by governments, the private sector, the UN system and aid agencies around the world.

On the eve of the inaugural meeting of the High Level Panel, Justine Greening also joined fellow Panel member Fiza Farhan to hear from young women on their experiences and get their views ahead of the meeting.

The full list of members of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment is as follows:

  • Alicia Girón González, former International Association for Feminist Economics President
  • Amadou Mahtar Ba, African Media Initiative CEO
  • Christine Lagarde, IMF Executive Director
  • Elizabeth Vazquez, President, CEO and Co-Founder, WEConnect International
  • Fiza Farhan, Co-Founder and CEO, Buksh Foundation, Pakistan
  • Jim Yong Kim, 12th President of the World Bank
  • Justine Greening, UK International Development Secretary
  • Michael Spence, Nobel Laureate and Professor of Economics, New York University
  • Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation
  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ncguka, Executive Director of UN Women
  • Renana Jhabvala, India Self-Employed Women’s Association
  • Saadia Zahidi, Head of Employment and Gender Initiatives, World Economic Forum
  • Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice-President, Tanzania
  • Sharon Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
  • Sheikha Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister International Cooperation and Development, UAE
  • Tina Fordham, Managing Director, Citi Research
  • Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International

Why Women’s Economic Empowerment matters

  • Women earn less, have fewer assets, bear the burden of unpaid work and care, and are largely concentrated in vulnerable and low-paying activities
  • According to the World Bank in 17 nations, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working, in 29 nations women are prohibited from working at night and in 34 nations women do not have the same inheritance rights as men
  • The gap between women’s and men’s labor force participation is 26%
  • Women spend 2.5 times more time on unpaid care and domestic work than men
  • Globally, women on average are paid 24% less than men
  • 75% of women’s employment in developing regions is informal and unprotected
  • McKinsey estimate that achieving gender parity would be worth around $28 trillion to the global economy, an increase of 26%

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Published 15 March 2016