Friends of Gender Equality Plus event, 8 March 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 8 March 2021

Dear Friends of Gender Equality Plus,

I am delighted to join you on International Women’s Day to renew our commitments for gender equality.

In just 3 years since its launch, this group has managed to turn itself into a driving force for gender considerations in the COVID-19 recovery. Our Ambassadors and in particular, our co-chairs - Ambassador Brandt, Ambassador Chenette and Juan Yermo, have made it happen.

A year into the pandemic, women continue to shoulder a disportionate share of the COVID-19 burden. An inclusive recovery that incorporates this imbalance is of the utmost importance. While we expect our economy to bounce back, we also need our society to bounce “forward”.

The crisis has exacerbated pre-existing gender inequality

Across the world, the gender pay gap remains at around 20%. The situation is marginally better in OECD countries, where the average gap is 13%. The lack of implementation of equal remuneration in domestic laws contributes to the persistence of gender pay gaps. Globally, 31 countries still do not have laws requiring equal remuneration for work of equal value.

Moreover, women are still under-represented in leadership positions. In the private sector women represent only 5% of CEOs and a quarter of company board members in OECD countries. Women also still make up only one-third of leadership positions across all three branches of government.

The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated this inequality, for example women are over-represented in the health and social care sector an area descimated by COVID-19. Here the gender pay gap is even worse and can go up to 29%. For the indespesable work they perform, applause and public displays of support are not enough.

It’s time to “Rebalance” these inequalities: some encouraging measures

In recent years, many countries have introduced impressive reforms to combat gender inequality. For example, to close the leadership gap in the public sector, affirmative actions have been taken, including gender quotas and parity principles, setting incentives, transparency and disclosure requirements, target setting, reviewing appointment and recruitment processes. For example, Mexico’s landmark Constitutional reform mandating political parties to ensure gender parity in their candidacies in 2014, which was achieved in 2018.

Countries are also implementing measures to increase diversity on boards and in senior management. Nearly half of the jurisdictions measured in the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance have established requirements to disclose the gender composition of boards.

The OECD’s work to combat gender inequality

The OECD applauds these reforms and insist that they continue in the recovery. For our part, we are helping countries rebalance these inequalities in different ways. To help reduce the gender pay gap, we are promoting the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC). Pay transparency measures are straightforward tools that can help close the gender wage gap. On this issue, I look forward to hearing from Minister Moreno and Ambassador Penicaud about France’s L’index de l’égalité femmes-hommes.

And today, we launched the publication, Man Enough? Measuring Masculine Norms to Promote Women’s Empowerment, which highlights that there are negative correlations between masculine norms, such as the breadwinner versus caregiver gender stereotype and female-to-male labour force participation. We need to focus more to turn these toxic masculine norms into positive outcomes that can empower women. There are range of policies we can implement to facilitate such change, including by promoting work-life balance to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work.

Dear friends,

It is essential that countries put in place measures now to ensure that recovery frameworks include a gender perspective, and that the recovery plans aim to address the persistent gender inequalities in OECD countries. We are hopeful that today’s discussion will bring us useful insights on where we stand in our common endeavour to design, develop and deliver better gender policies for better lives.

Last but not least, I'd like to thank all of you here, particularly the Government of Japan, for supporting the gender mainstreaming work at the OECD. 

Thank you.


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