Speaking up for equal pay

The goal of equal pay for work of equal value requires many voices and concrete action by governments and businesses. Here are some of the leading voices on equal pay speaking at the launch of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) launch during the opening of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly.

News | 09 October 2017



Mr. Guy Ryder

Director General, ILO

”EPIC is aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, and that spurs us all to reach the heights which so far we have failed to reach.”

H.E. Mr. Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera

President, Costa Rica
Co-Chair, UN Panel on Women's Economic Empowerment

“Empowering women economically means not only that they will be able to generate, maintain and make use of their own assets – whether monetary, financial, digital or proprietary – but also that there is an opportunity for a multiplier effect for physical, sexual or political autonomy.”


H.E. Mrs. Hala Lattouf

Minister of Social Development, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

“When you have scarce resources, important security issues and real development issues, and if you make gender equality into a women’s issue, it will not fly. It has to become a national and social justice issue.”

H.E. Mrs. Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado

Vice President, Republic of Panama

“We cannot deny that women today still have more responsibilities at home. (…) We need to create legislation that ensures equal participation in family life; it is a part of the solution.”


H.E. Dr. Aurelia Frick

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Principality of Liechtenstein

“I grew up thinking the sky is the limit, but now, when I am 40, I see the reality. My generation needs to wake up and fight for equal pay.”

H.E. Ms. Meher Afroz Chumki

State Minister, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs People’s Republic of Bangladesh

“Equal pay starts with respect. When we honor each other, pay will be equal. Our mindsets should be changed to reflect that.“



H.E. Ms. Margaret Mwanakatwe

Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Republic of Zambia

“The EPIC needs to handle Africa in a different way; (…) We need to ensure that boys and girls get equal access to education, especially in rural areas.”

Mr. Frans Timmermans

First Vice-President, Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, European Commission

“Equal pay is about making sure we can unleash 100% of the brainpower that we have in our society.”

“The only way we will empower African women to have control over how many children they want to have is if they are economically independent enough to make that choice. We can only reach that through education. It is a wider issue; it is not only a pay gap, but a gap in fundamental rights.”



Ms. Alison Smale

Under Secretary-General, UN Department of Public Information

“Delivering on equal pay is not only a fundamental right for women; it can generate an even greater number of positive outcomes that in turn can directly or indirectly contribute to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Executive Director, UN Women

“How many women would say ‘I am happy to not be paid or paid less because I am a mother?’”

“There is an entrenched occupational segregation where women and men are concentrated in different jobs and many of the jobs where women tend to dominate tend to be valued less.”

“When women sew, they are seamstresses. When men sew, they are designers. When women cook, they are cooks. When men cook, they are chefs and become famous”


Mr. Guy Ryder

Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO)

“Legislation for equal pay is necessary, but insufficient. (…) The future, from an ILO perspective, cannot be carrying on, doing the same things, and applying the same solutions to a problem that is proven intractable to those solutions. We need innovative approaches to the issue of pay equality.”

“The biggest obstacle women face, according to our survey, is reconciling professional responsibilities with family and household responsibilities.”

Mr. Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

“In Norway, Germany and Mexico, many changes promoting gender equality had to be legislated. It did not happen spontaneously.”

“We believe women are the single most important unutilized asset that we have in our societies. The fact that there is a pay gap, and that is persists, is the tip of the ice berg.”



Ms. Simona Scarpaleggia

CEO, IKEA Switzerland and Co-Chair, UN Panel on Women's Economic Empowerment

“Companies like to make many declarations, but then they do not act upon it. Having a clear plan makes change possible.”

Mr. Peter Robinson

President, United States Council for International Business (USCIB) on behalf of the International Organization of Employers (IOE)

“Companies need to do their best to recruit and promote women.”



Ms. Deborah Gillis

President and CEO, Catalyst

“Catalyst research shows that when women graduate with MBA degrees they are paid on average $4600 less than their male colleagues.”

“Transparency is critical. Give women the information about salary and pay structure and what is expected of them, so that they can negotiate.”

“We need organizations to conduct internal pay equity studies to ensure that women and men are being paid fairly and equally for the same roles.”

Ms. Marie Clarke Walker

Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Labour Congress

“Focus on people, not profits. If you focus on people and what people need, and if you treat people with respect and dignity, the profits will come.”


Ms. Devon Pike

Senior Vice President, Global Merchandising , GAP

“Gender equality is just the way it should be.”

“In 2014, we hired an external third party to confirm that we are doing the right thing and that we pay equally for equal work. We have done it every year since because it is so effective.”

“Equal pay for equal work allows you to attract talent.”


Ms. Julie Sweet

Chief Executive Officer for North America, Accenture

“It is hard to get women into leadership, but it is not hard to pay the same for the same work. If there are companies in your country that do not do that, then you need to force the transparency. That is not difficult; it just requires a decision to do it.”

“It is difficult to mobilize leadership in an organization around solving an issue if you do not trust them enough to share the demographics numbers on employees’ gender, ethnicity and disability. (…) You should not wait to be transparent until your numbers are good.”


Mr. Mark McLane

Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Barclays

“You have to force the system; If you do not have a sufficient percentage of women as leading role models, then you have to have those women more visible. You have to create the culture of role modelling.”

“No executive wants to have numbers that are not moving in the right direction whether it is a part of your business or your people plan. It is all about taking the power of your own organization in a positive way to continue to move the agenda on gender equality.”

“It is not a leveled playing field for women in financial services, so you have to have a forcing function to start leveling the playing field. It is not going to happen organically.”