Second Eurasian Women’s Forum

ILO Deputy Head: Alarming gender equality gaps persist across the globe

Obstacles to gender equality are stopping women fulfilling their aspirations, and preventing societies and economies becoming more inclusive, prosperous, peaceful, and secure.

News | 20 September 2018

“Continued globalization, technological development, migration shifts, changing demographics and climate change are putting at risk important gains that women have made over time”, Deborah Greenfield, Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), told delegates to the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum held in St Petersburg 19-21 September. 

Greenfield called on delegates attending the opening of the Forum to discuss key gender equality gaps that persist across the globe, with a view to pushing for action and finding solutions.

She pointed to the alarming statistic that woman globally have 30 per cent less chance of being in the labour force, and when they are, are often at the bottom of the economic ladder. The majority of women remain in low-paying jobs and are over-represented in informal and non-standard forms of employment.

In her opening statement, Greenfield emphasised the urgent need to close the “stubborn and persistent” gender pay gap. At the moment, this gap stands at an average of 20 per cent globally. The deputy head of the ILO recalled the recent launch of the Equal Pay CoalitionEPIC by the ILO, UN Women and the OECD, with the aim of providing concrete proposals for closing this gap.

Another gender issue that needs to be addressed relates to unpaid care work. In 2018, 606 million working age women, compared to 41 million men, said they were not in the labour force because of unpaid care work. Women are also penalized for their role as mothers. Mothers of children under six faces the greatest barriers, with only 47.6 percent of them in employment. This calls for the continuation of interventions that recognize, reduce and redistribute care responsibilities, she said.

Greenfield also called for women to be given a greater voice in the world of work. A crucial issue is the gap in women's representation at all levels of decision-making, including in top corporate and business careers.

“The subject of this plenary that deals with global security is close to the heart of the International Labour Organization and its mandate. Almost one hundred years ago the drafters of the ILO Constitution stated that lasting peace cannot be achieved without social justice. Almost one hundred years later, we know that working towards social justice is an unfinished project and to a large extent that is because we have not yet achieved gender equality which is a precondition for sustainable development and lasting peace. The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development is our plan of action for people, planet and prosperity, where gender equality and decent work have a key role to play”, Greenfield concluded.

The Eurasian Women’s Forum is the world’s largest platform for discussing the role of women in contemporary society.

Forum participants are female members of parliament, representatives of the executive authorities, international organizations, business circles, scientific community, public institutions and charity projects, as well as prominent leaders of the international feminist movement from many countries.
The Second Forum’s topic is ‘Women for Global Security and Sustainable Development’. While maintaining continuity with the first Forum, held in 2015, it responds to the contemporary international agenda and complies with the UN General Assembly Declaration, ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.