2017 International Women’s Day Lunch


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

OECD, Paris, 8 March 2017

(As prepared for delivery) 

Dear Ambassadors, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted we can mark International Women’s Day together. Gender equality is a huge priority for the OECD, it reverberates through everything we do.

In spite of improvements, progress on the integration of women into our economies and societies is still facing important challenges.

Gender gaps in OECD countries persist across many fronts. In 2015 on average 59% of working age women were employed compared to 74% of men. Women still earn on average 15% less than men and remain underrepresented in public life and in the private sector. On average, women held only 29% of parliament seats in 2016 and make up less than one-third of managers. Mexico (42%).

The OECD has also been tracking the implementation of the G20 gender target of 25 by 25 to cut the deficit by 25% in terms of women’s participation in the labour force vs that of men by 2025, and has found that despite progress much remains to be done in order to reach the goal. The average gender gap for countries with available data declined from 20.3% in 2012 to 19.6% in 2015, but in some countries the gap increased and in others it remained very large. We have to do more, and faster!

Closing the gender gap is a moral imperative, but it also brings great economic and social dividends. It means better growth, use of skills and talent, greater social cohesion and increased global wellbeing. According to our estimates, OECD per capita in OECD countries would increase by 12% over the next 20 years if labour force participation among women reached the same level as men.

This is why at the OECD we are working hard to help countries promote gender inclusion. We have developed an impressive arsenal of gender policy tools. The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. Tools like the PISA Survey and the ABC of Gender Equality in Education, as well as new projects on gender stereotyping in the media are helping to create a level playing field empowering women and girls to pursue studies and careers traditionally dominated by men.

The 2015 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life provides governments with clear, actionable guidelines; while in the private sector the revised G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance encourage measures to enhance diversity such as voluntary targets, quotas, or disclosure requirements. Our OECD Report to G7 Leaders on Women and Entrepreneurship, our Economic Surveys and our country-specific studies like OECD Review of Gender Policies in Mexico, released this year, make targeted recommendations in areas like parental leave and incentives to work, while the OECD’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) measures discrimination against women in social institutions across 160 countries. These are just a few examples of a much bigger universe.

This effort, this concern, this philosophy is reflected in our internal procedures. I am proud to serve with a Chief of Staff, Chief Economist, Chief Statistician and Chief Auditor who are all women. Our OECD Diversity Action Plan is bearing fruit: as of March 2017, all 25 recommended actions are either implemented or in progress of implementation. Recent amendments in the recruitment process requiring a gender-balanced shortlist helped women rise to the top in various Directorates.

Notwithstanding this progress, we are still far from achieving gender equality, especially at the senior management level: 39% at the level of Middle Management, and 29% at the Executive Leadership level. More efforts are needed to allow diverse talents to thrive! Diversity brings better decision-making; it makes us more flexible and more effective at dealing with the unknown; and, above all, it is a powerful force for change and modernisation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, friends and colleagues,

I count on every one of you as senior managers to make diversity a priority in your teams. Today’s lunch is an opportunity to discuss our experiences, our commitments, our ambitions and even our frustrations in promoting a gender equal OECD, and a gender equal world. Thank you.


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