The G20 wants gender equality in the workforce: how can we make it happen? | Women's Agenda

The G20 wants gender equality in the workforce: how can we make it happen?

The G20 countries have made a commitment to reduce the gender gap in workforce participation by 25% by 2025.

The summit acknowledged that one of the world’s most significant barriers to global economic growth is the persistently low level of women’s participation in the workforce compared with men’s.

G20 leaders announced that by increasing female labour participation by 25% over the next 15 years, they would bring 100 million women into the workforce – thereby allowing the G20 countries to reach their goal to increase global economic growth by 2.1% by 2018.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the target is a “clear aspiration”.

“An extraordinary achievement if we can deliver on this, but it is a clear aspiration and it is an achievable accountable goal,” he told ABC News.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency spokesperson Yolanda Beattie said the G20 target could only be reached by addressing all the embedded workplace structures that disadvantage women.

“There is no silver bullet. It begins with a deep understanding of all of the systemic barriers to women’s full participation in the workforce,” she told Women’s Agenda.

“Every key decision maker needs to understand that the workforce is not a level playing field, and they need to understand why this is the case and then make a commitment to addressing every single element of women’s disadvantage at work”.

Beattie said there were three key “levers to pull” in terms of lifting female workforce participation:

1. Social change – we need to create new social norms that see men sharing domestic and caring duties and that change stereotypes around the types of work undertaken by men and women.

2. Policy change – we need to establish clear policy to break down barriers to female workforce participation, such as providing affordable childcare and reducing disincentives for women to work more hours and more days.

3. Workplace change – we need to make sure all individual employers are focusing on eliminating workplace inequalities such as wage gaps and underrepresentation of women in leadership pipelines.

“Progress on lifting female workforce participation has been very slow and sometimes feels intractable, but if we can pull all of these levers at the same time and with commitment and focus, it is very achievable,” Beattie said.

She said it was significant that the G20 leaders had made a firm commitment on gender equality, but that the leaders would need to work hard to translate the commitment into action.

“We are in a much better position than we were a week ago. The fact that this issue has been elevated, and that the world’s most powerful leaders acknowledged that lifting female workforce participation is a key driver to economic growth is hugely significant,” she said.

“Now we need to convert this commitment from a headline into tangible action. This target is not going to be met just through the goodwill of the G20 leaders.”

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