Inaugural 'Women Fast Forward' Asia Pacific Dialogue Releases G20 Recommendations on Women’s Advancement

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HONOLULU (18 July, 2017) – Participants in the inaugural “Women Fast Forward” Asia Pacific consultation dialogue at the East-West Center in Honolulu have released a communiqué of policy recommendations to help the G20 address several of the most pressing areas of ongoing disparity in women’s economic status throughout the Asia Pacific region and the world. The dialogue was associated with the “W20” process that advises G20 nations on women’s economic empowerment.

Hosted by the East-West Center and sponsored by the global professional services organization EY, the June 29-30 dialogue brought together current and former heads of state, government officials, academic experts, and business and civil society leaders to make policy recommendations with examples of G20 good practice around five key aspects of women’s economic empowerment: legislative barriers, women in leadership, financial inclusion, digital inclusion and women in supply chains. Participants in the dialogue included senior representatives from APEC, the World Bank, the International Labor Organization and the Council of Women World Leaders.

“With projections that it will still take 170 years to reach economic parity given current conditions, it’s time to hurry history,” said international development economist Amanda Ellis, a Visiting Senior Fellow at the East-West Center who spearheaded the dialogue. “Fifteen of the G20 countries still have discriminatory legislation preventing women from contributing fully to economic growth, yet recent research demonstrates that as much as $28 trillion could be added to the global economy by 2025 if all countries bridged the gender gap. That’s equivalent to the combined economies of the U.S. and China today.”

In addition, a recent EY-sponsored study of over 21,000 companies globally found that having women in corporate leadership can significantly increase profitability.

“Many companies and governments are now recognizing the value of increasing diversity in leadership – that’s progress,” said Uschi Schreiber, EY’s Global Vice Chair – Markets and Chair of Global Accounts Committee. “But much more needs to be done to achieve gender parity at all levels of our organizations. Real parity also requires our community and societies to acknowledge the full impact and the potential of women in our workplaces. We can accelerate that change by challenging biases and resetting norms to enable greater opportunities for everyone.”

Among the Asia Pacific consultation group’s recommendations are measures to:

  • Remove discriminatory legislation still on the books in 90 percent of countries – including 15 G20 members - to create a level playing field and enable women to fully contribute to sustainable economic growth.
  • Promote financial inclusion for women via National Financial Inclusion strategies, as in Indonesia, and via digital and financial literacy with special attention to consumer protection, as in India.
  • Improve access to digital technology for women and girls and encourage girls to study STEM subjects, as in Australia.
  • Increase government purchasing from women-owned businesses, as in the U.S. and South Korea. At the dialogue, Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO of WEConnect International, pointed out that women owned businesses receive only around 1 percent of government and corporate contracts, despite being around a third of business owners worldwide.
  • Adopt regulations to encourage more female board members on publicly listed companies, as in Australia.
  • Include special consideration of indigenous women’s issues in relevant advisory bodies to the G20.

(View the full recommendations communiqué.)

A draft of the recommendations was communicated via Canada’s delegation at the recent G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, and a final version will help inform the W20’s formal input into the 2018 G20 summit in Argentina. The W20, or Women 20, is the official G20 dialogue with NGOs, female entrepreneur associations and scientists pushing forward women's economic equality, with the goal of reducing the gender employment gap by 25 percent by 2025. (Learn more here.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, chair of this year’s G20 summit, has actively championed the W20 process, and the consultations at the East-West Center built on the W20’s 2017 Implementation Plan from an April summit in Berlin with practical recommendations to take forward to Argentina.

Dame Jenny Shipley, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and the first woman to lead any nation in Oceania, underscored the importance of the process: “Integrating W20 recommendations into the G20 is both a huge opportunity and a massive challenge. Women confronting these questions in the context of the G20 is a breakthrough.”

Hoang Thi Thu Huyen, Deputy Director General of Gender Equality in Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor and 2017 APEC Chair of Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy, said the dialogue offered “a great opportunity for APEC nations to share common effort and ideals on how to promote women’s economic inclusion and empowerment.”

Carol Anne Hilton, a leader in indigenous economics and Senior Adviser to the Canadian Federal Economic Growth Council, noted that “a focus on best practice in other G20 countries helped inform our recommendations. For example, the group agreed that other G20 countries should also include indigenous female representation on national economic growth councils, as we’ve done in Canada.”

And Laura Liswood, Co-founder and Secretary-General of the Council of Women World Leaders, quipped that with progress for women moving “much slower than many of us had hoped, we would be a lot further along if, say, at least 50 percent of G20 leaders were women.”