Remarks by Angel Gurría
8 March 2019 - Paris, France
(As prepared for delivery)
Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York, Ambassadors, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Happy International Women’s Day! The OECD is proud to host this celebration.
Let me begin by thanking Princess Beatrice of York, our SIGI Ambassador, for joining us today. We could not have asked for a better champion for SIGI.
I am delighted to be here to discuss how we need to change social norms to achieve gender equality, and to launch the new Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) 2019 Global Report.
We are also proud to be launching today a Spanish version of the Wikigender online platform which will allow Spanish-speaking communities around the world to share information on gender-transformative public policies and programmes.
We have made some important progress. Over the recent years, we have seen governments take measures to translate political commitments into legal reforms to effectively improve women’s rights and empowerment.
In fact, since the last edition of the SIGI in 2014: 15 countries have enacted legislation to criminalise domestic violence, 15 countries have eliminated legal exceptions that allow underage girls to marry, 8 countries introduced legal measures to promote gender-balanced representation in elected public offices, and paid maternity leave is guaranteed in all but Papua New Guinea and the United States.
These measures are starting to produce results. We are witnessing a decrease in the acceptance of gender discriminative social norms. In 2012, 50% of the global female population thought domestic violence was acceptable under certain circumstances. By 2018 this figure had gone down to 27%.
Our SIGI 2019 Report also reveals that most OECD countries have implemented legal reforms and policies to disincentivize patriarchal social norms and to open possibilities for women’s economic, political and social empowerment.
This progress is crucial; however, the pace is still too slow.
Let’s face it, at the current pace, it will take more than 200 years, or nine generations, to achieve gender equality and fully unlock women’s empowerment opportunities!
We still have a lot of work to do. Across OECD countries, there is still an average gap of 13.8% in median earnings of full-time employees.
We know that there are no quick fix solutions for gender equality and women’s empowerment, but we also know that putting gender equality at the centre of policies is not only an ethical imperative, it is also an excellent long-term investment, with high social and economic returns.
It is also intelligent economics. Leaving women aside has an enormous cost for our economies, for our development, for our prosperity. According to the SIGI data, discrimination in laws, attitudes and practices is estimated to cost the global economy close to USD 6 trillion. That is 7.5% of global GDP.
Economic Policies and quotas are not enough: we need a cultural transformation. We need a deeper and broader approach. Even if we make progress introducing new policies and regulations (like quotas) to induce gender inclusion and women’s empowerment, cultural patterns, customary laws and social norms continue to determine the behaviour of communities and individuals, limiting the impact of policy reforms. That is why we insist that we need a social transformation to ensure both our sons and daughters can live in a sustainable and more inclusive world.
How can we advance in the face of the stigmatisation of working mothers, an under-estimation of female leadership, or an unequal division of labour and care responsibilities within households if we don’t address such norms? We need to combat stereotypes everywhere. Through education, mass media, social networks, videogames, art, you name it.
Approaches to these challenges also have to be fit-for-purpose, endogenous, tailored to individual cultural contexts. The OECD is working hard to help governments make progress.
Let me give you a few examples of our contribution:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude with the words of someone who fought with all his strength to promote women’s empowerment throughout the world, the luminous Kofi Annan. In his own words, “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”
Remember, we cannot achieve “the future we want” if half of our population is not empowered to be part of the journey.
I am now pleased to invite to the floor Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York to share her insights on this discussion.