The OECD Gender Browser: A Benchmark for gender equality


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General


Chicago, 8th March 2012

(As prepared for delivery)
Gentlemen and Ladies,
It is a great privilege for me to launch our new OECD gender data browser today, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, and here in Chicago, which has seen the rise of so many prominent women leaders, but men also!

Let me first underline that, besides the tremendous progress we could observe in the last 50 years, there is still a long way to go to achieve real gender equality. Gender is maybe the most underexploited resource for the economy and the society nowadays. This is true for many countries – also at different stages of development. We have not achieve equality, the gap is still wide. Opportunities for women are not equal in education, neither in the labour market, nor in entrepreneurship, or politics. This is a waste for the individuals, but is also an obstacle to realize the full potential of our economies.

We need to change this.  This is a major  an economic imperative. There is an economic and a business case for it. To face the daunting economic challenges of today, we need to tap all sources of growth. We can not waste women’s economic contributions. This is why the OECD has embarked in developing a gender initiative that covers education, employment and entrepreneurship.

But how to trigger and support progress? Gender inequality has many different roots, including social norms and attitudes. But it also stems from flawed policies, economic incentives, laws and regulations. And the good news is that we can impact and influence  these. 

However, to propose more effective  policies, we need to rely on clear data and solid evidence. That is exactly what our gender data browser is about. We received a strong mandate last year at our 50 Anniversary from our member countries to develop it. Secretary Clinton chaired our Ministerial and championed this topic. Ambassador Kornbluh has been a driving force in the whole gender initiative, but also on the indicators part of it. And the specific part of the indicators  will also allow us fulfilling the commitment of the Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development.

The result is here: our online database provides a harmonised set of indicators on education, employment and entrepreneurship, covering both advanced and emerging economies. It will allow us, you and every academic or citizen to compare gender indicators between countries and across time. It will validate or refute what you think, and reveal new striking facts or trends. It will above all confirm that there is a long way to go, and allow us to monitor progress. 

First, it shows that gender differences in science performance are not significant. Girls even outperform boys in most of our countries. But there is a persistent gender bias in the choice of disciplines. Girls don’t go in scientific or engineering careers with higher economic returns. This is a real puzzle that we need to solve.

Second, it shows that women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market, only 46% do so in Mexico. They tend to work less hours, 60 % are in part-time jobs in the Netherlands, close to 40% in the UK.

Third, women are less likely to work for pay, are concentrated in less well-paid sectors and have lower hourly wages. If the wage gap has narrowed, it is still too large, 16% on average, 20% in Canada and up to 39% in Korea. One important factor is that women spend twice as much time as men in unpaid caring activities. They do around 4 extra hours per day in Turkey and Italy. This prevents them to have both “babies and bosses”. And here progress is slow.

Fourth, our benchmark shows that women are also less likely to reach decision-making positions. This is due first to what we call the “leaky pipeline”, and then to the famous glass ceiling. Women occupy only 3% of board seats in listed companies in Germany. Barely more than 12% in the US, compared to 38% in Norway. The cost of this is a huge loss of talent. If we talk about policy making, , women still hold only 25% of seats in Parliaments, only close to 17 % and 19% respectively in the US and France.

Fifth, Women are also less likely to become entrepreneurs. Only 1 % of those in the labour market do so in Japan. Who can afford to neglect this formidable and untapped source of growth? 

These results are derived from our dataset, that includes this and many other indicators and comparisons among countries that will inform and trigger change. We hope that all this data will raise awareness on gender inequality, will document both its causes, mechanisms and impact, and eventually encourage policy makers to develop better policies for better lives. There are indeed a lot of policies that can help bridging the gap. And our OECD Gender Initiative will soon, in May, propose policy recommendations to do so.

Let us join forces to make this progress a reality.


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