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Advancing Women in Private Sector Leadership - a G20/OECD Review of Progress, 28 April 2021


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 28 April 2021

Dear Minister Bonetti, Distinguished Speakers, Friends,

I am delighted to join you today in the webinar, Advancing Women in Private Sector Leadership, in co-operation with the G20 Italian Presidency.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the failures, fractures and fissures that have long existed in our societies and economies. It has laid bare the inherent gender inequalities of nearly every system in every part of the world, including: social services, health care, employment, pay, leadership, share of unpaid work and access to finance.

The COVID-19 crisis may also risk rolling back the already fragile gains made in advancing gender equality. Women are leaving the workforce in alarming numbers. By February 2021, across the OECD, 2% of employed women – compared to 0.6% of employed men – dropped out of the paid labour force. Furthermore, according to a recent survey by McKinsey, more than one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce — including those in leadership positions.

In 2019, women represented only 23% of boards on average across OECD and G20 countries. In 2020, only 7% of Fortune 500 companies were led by women. In the frontline of the pandemic, although women make up 70% of the health workforce, they hold only 25% of senior roles.

The impact of COVID-19 on women’s access to leadership is yet to be known, but concrete support measures are needed to mitigate any negative consequences, given the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women.

In recent years, countries have implemented measures to increase diversity on boards and in senior management. The OECD has been monitoring the delivery of the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance. According to the forthcoming OECD Corporate Governance Factbook, 60% of surveyed jurisdictions have established requirements to disclose gender composition of boards, while a majority of jurisdictions have also now established quotas or targets to encourage greater board diversity. The OECD applauds these measures and insists that they continue in the recovery.

More must be done, however, to create an enabling and supportive environment for women. In particular, it is vital to include men in the conversation to challenge existing social norms. At the OECD, we have started an important project to assess “restrictive masculinities” through indicators to identify ways to involve men in empowering women. Today, in many countries across the OECD, fathers account for less than 20% of those taking paid parental leave. Even if a system that promotes work-life balance is implemented, meaningful changes cannot happen unless we move away from deep-rooted social norms that confine men and women to traditional gender roles.

It is important to recognise that gender equality is not a zero-sum game. Back in 2014, when the OECD helped design the G20 Brisbane gender target, G20 Leaders recognised that gender equality and growth are inseparable. Today, more than ever, we need this narrative to help us move forward.

The OECD is therefore proud to be supporting the Italian Presidency in designing the “G20 Roadmap towards and beyond the Brisbane target” to accelerate efforts. The G20 Alliance for the Empowerment and Progression of Women’s Economic Representation (EMPOWER) could also unlock the barriers to women’s leadership in the private sector by promoting collaboration between business leaders and governments.

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 and G20 countries.

The OECD is ready to continue working with and for you on this crucial issue and ensure a fair and inclusive recovery.

Thank you.


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