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Gender equality is worth $20 trillion. Here's why

Gender equality is worth $20 trillion. Here's why

We were sent a copy of a presentation that was given to political leaders at the G20 about Gender Equality and frankly it's kind of shocking

When the UN created the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, all of the 193 UN member countries signed up to an agreed development plan for the entire planet from 2015 to 2030. This included SDG 5, which is concerned with gender equality and is a critical goal for both the global economy and climate change as women and girls play a key role in actioning sustainability. (Setting aside the obvious point about general fairness.)

At the Women Political Leaders Forum held at the Japanese Parliament in the margins of the G20 this year, Amanda Ellis, former UN Ambassador and long term global advocate for the inclusion of women (and now Senior Special Adviser for Diplomacy and Sustainable Development at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University), presented global leaders with an update on SDG5 performance and it was pretty damning.

Despite all 193 signatories having agreed to the requirements of SDG5 in 2019, only 6 countries have mandated full gender equality in the intervening 4 years. Latvia, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium and France. The means over 95% of countries still have laws that discriminate against women.

Gender discrimination is both expensive and economically senseless. McKinsey Global Institute estimate that up to $28 trillion could be added to the global economy if there were a level playing field between men and women. 

Ellis says that at current rates of progress, it will take 202 years to reach economic equality. I don't know about you, but that seems an awfully long time...

Politically, 1 in 5 politicians are women and 7% are heads of state. At G20, Ellis advised heads of states to consult global statistics on where they stand, but here's the round up:

  • Nearly 30% of countries restrict women's freedom of movement
  • 45% of countries have laws constraining women's decisions to join and remain in the workforce

  • Nearly 66% of countries can improve legislation regarding women's pay
  • Nearly 50% of countries can improve laws around getting married
  • Retirement age is different for men and women in more than 33% of countries
  • Nearly 40% of countries limit a woman's property rights

The size of these figures is surprising, the discrimination is repressive and it's not hard to imagine how one can quickly get to $28 trillion in economic gain if they were changed. Global leaders were also served an ultimatum in the form of an open letter ahead of the G20 by the Investor Group on Climate change, who requested that governments “phase out thermal coal power”, “put a meaningful price on carbon” and “phase out fossil fuel subsidies.”  Given that all we ever see reported from G20 are the side show meetings, it's heartening to know that world leaders are under scrutiny for meaningful change. 

Amanda Ellis is an Australian New Zealander. (Yes, there is such a thing. Truth.) She has worked for over 20 years with UN, World Bank, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in women's advocacy, foreign aid, global banking alliances and sustainability. She now works with Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

She is in a unique position to understand and advise on the intersection among gender, leadership, power, culture, context and sustainability.  You can see the video of her presentation for G20 here

Images: Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University 
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