Social and welfare issues

Bringing gender equality to the core of the G20 agenda


Keynote address by Angel Gurría


Women-20 Official Launch

Ankara, 6 September 2015

(As prepared for delivery)


Dear Mrs. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is an honour to address you at the launch of the W20. Today is yet another step in our journey to bring gender equality to the core of the G20 agenda. And I would like to congratulate the Turkish Presidency for keeping the momentum and carrying this issue forward by creating the W20.


This has been a very exciting process in which many of us were personally involved and we are not yet close to a final destination for this work. But think of the opportunities ahead!

Women-20 Official Launch

6 September 2015 - OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría speaking at the official launch of the W20, Ankara, Turkey. 

Photo: W20/Turkey

Last year under the Australian G20 presidency in 2014, we had a major breakthrough with leaders agreeing to reduce the gender gap in labour market participation rates by 25% by 2025. We can expect a “double dividend” from achieving this objective:


  • A 100 million more women into the labour force.
  • A positive impact on productivity.


Projections show that raising women’s labour force participation rates to male levels over the next 20 years will increase GDP per capita growth rates in different economies such as Japan, Korea or Italy.


Looking further into the future, the economic case for gender equality is even more compelling. The world’s population is ageing and this challenge can only be mastered if all available talent is mobilised. So let’s stop forsaking the contributions of well-educated women who are still faced with the choice between babies and bosses in so many countries today.


Moving towards gender equality is therefore an imperative, not an option. It must be a central part of any strategy to create more sustainable and inclusive economies and societies.  


The W20 needs to address and involve men too. Let us make them champions of gender equality. Not just because we know gender equality will help economic recovery and growth. But also because we aspire to a society where men and women enjoy the same opportunities to have fulfilling jobs, innovate, participate in public life, raise children, and care for family and friends. We cannot push change and break gender stereotypes if gender equality is only pushed by women and for women, without engaging men. So I am pleased to see so many men in the hall here today.


In fact, when the OECD launched its Gender Initiative back in 2010, we found that the policies which will most benefit women often are those which target men.  Consider parental leave. If only women are involved in care for children, they will lose ground in the labour market.  Most countries provide the option of paid leave to fathers but this is not enough to have a more equal sharing of paid leave among parents. Take Iceland, where in 2000 only 3% of the parental leave days were used by fathers. In 2003 the country reformed its leave policy and reserved three of the available months for exclusive use by fathers. Today, the share of parental leave taken by Icelandic fathers accounts for 33%.


Of course, most of the policy attention needs to be on overcoming the barriers which girls and women face in achieving their potential.  High-achieving girls shy away from further studies in engineering or science: in OECD countries in 2012, one in five graduates in computer sciences was a woman, but one in 6 in Brazil. We found strong evidence that gender stereotypes, conscious and unconscious, among students, parents, teachers and employers are partly responsible. We need to do better in opening young people’s minds to the world of possibilities before them.


Reducing gender gaps in the field of study will also help narrow some of the gaps we see in the labour market. Occupational choices explain part of the pay gaps that we observe in OECD countries. Choosing science or engineering studies can also help women entrepreneurs diversify more. In the OECD area, four out of five self-employed women work in the services sector, compared to just over half of self-employed men.


In developing countries, getting more girls to complete secondary education remains one of the main challenges for gender equality. In sub-Saharan countries, for example, 38% of girls were enrolled in secondary school, compared to 45% of boys in 2012.


We also need to bring more women into the C-Suites. Women remain under-represented in leadership positions despite recent progress in many countries.  No country has yet reached parity and only few OECD countries – including Norway, Finland and France – have passed or are close to the 30% threshold of female representation on boards. Women comprise just 9% of board members in China, 6% in Indonesia and 18% in South Africa. The public sector should lead by example here, but unfortunately that is not happening. In 2014, women occupied fewer than one in three parliament seats and only one in four ministers in OECD countries are female.


Aid can be an important lever to support women’s economic empowerment in developing countries. OECD data finds that aid in support of women’s economic empowerment has remained flat since 2008. The new Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will provide important impetus in closing financing gaps and mobilizing public action on women’s economic empowerment.


The W20 has great potential to help share concrete policy examples to advance the G20 commitments, not just on gender equality but, as I just mentioned, also on inequality and economic growth. Let us make sure that gender equality stays at the core of the G20 work through the contributions of the W20 and its cooperation with other outreach groups.


As always, The OECD stands ready to assist the W20 and the G20 in the process of designing, developing and implementing better gender policies for better lives.


Thank you.