Transcript of Video message by Angel Gurría
15 July 2020 - OECD, France
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to open this conference on “Women in Industry and Innovation: Building women‘s resilience to global challenges and emerging crises”. I would like to thank UNIDO for organising this important meeting, in collaboration with FAO, UN Women and the Government of Italy.
We come together at a particularly difficult time. Among the plethora of challenges created by COVID-19, this crisis is also exacerbating gender inequalities and risks reversing some of the important progress that we have made on women’s empowerment.
Two key areas where we have to keep making progress in empowering women are industry and innovation. The participation of women in both areas is crucial and faces important challenges.
This crisis can be particularly damaging for industries in which many women work, such as air travel, tourism, retail activities, accommodation, food and beverage. In OECD countries, women represent close to half of employment in the air transport industry, 53% in food and beverage services, and 60% in accommodation. Some manufacturing industries with strong participation of women are also facing severe disruption. One of the most notable examples is the garment industry, where women represent over three-quarters of workers, ranging from 63% of the workforce in Jordan, to 70% in China, and 85% in Bangladesh. In many corporations in these and other industries, women are not only often among the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers, but also still grossly underrepresented in senior management positions and executive boards . The gender pay gap is still 13% on average in the OECD.
Focusing on innovation, we find additional challenges. Women represent only 21% of scientists identified as “corresponding authors”, a proxy term for leadership in the world of science; and only 17% of scientists earning more than USD 105,000 per year are women.
Governments today have a unique opportunity to build back better by promoting gender equality and implementing a series of key measures that the OECD has been recommending for many years. Let me highlight three:
First, women need to be relieved of unpaid care responsibilities. For example, through public childcare options and flexible work arrangements, but also by getting men to take on more of the unpaid work and paternity leave. Providing easier access to benefits targeted at low-income families, in particular single parents who are predominantly women, is crucial to prevent inequalities from widening.
Second, addressing gender inequalities in science, technology, engineering and maths, the so-called STEM subjects, will require a strategic and systemic long-term approach. We need policy actions to go beyond gender stereotypes, to avoid digital gaps and discrimination, and to pro-actively support women in senior positions, especially in male-dominated sectors and research fields.
And third, given that COVID‑19 poses a severe threat to the achievement of gender-related SDGs, it is key to ensure that data collected on the impact of the pandemic are systematically sex-disaggregated. This will help lay gender equalities open and facilitate building a strong political commitment to apply a gender perspective when designing policy responses to this crisis.
Looking ahead, the OECD will continue to champion women’s empowerment through various areas of its work and tools such as the OECD Gender Data Portal; the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), which measures discrimination in 180 countries; the OECD Toolkit for Mainstreaming and Implementing Gender Equality, which provides guidelines to implement the OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life; and the Missing Entrepreneurs 2019 report as well as the OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook 2019, which examine inclusive entrepreneurship through a gender lens. The list goes on!
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Fighting for women’s rights and gender equality is our responsibility to promote more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies. The OECD is fully dedicated to this important work and to joining forces with UNIDO to ensure that all women on this planet are empowered. Thank you.