LOS ANGELES — On July 13, global leaders met for the first ever U.N. High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment in San Jose, Costa Rica. Around the world, women earn on average 24 percent less than men, but women do at least two times more unpaid care and domestic work than men, according to the U.N. Development Program (UNDP).
Latin America shows by example how the inclusion of women advances the economic prosperity of women and benefits a country’s economic development as a whole. Women’s contribution to the work force has increased from 40 percent in 1990 to 55 percent 2013, according to Luiza Carvalho, the regional director of U.N. Women for the Americas and the Caribbean.
The International Labor Organization Convention 189 sets standards and monitors the rights of domestic workers. Out of the 22 countries that have signed the convention 12 of those countries are in Latin America. Domestic work is the largest employment for women in Latin America. Ensuring fair wages in domestic work is essential to improving working conditions for women.
According to the International Labor Organization, this is the first time in Latin America’s history where more than half of working-aged women are in the labor force. Even though the number of working women increased to nearly 53 percent in 2010, the percentage of working-aged men is much higher at nearly 80 percent.
Latin America has made great strides in improving equality and employment opportunities for women, but the U.N. High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment focused on continuing to work toward eliminating gender gaps in Latin America and the world.
The initiatives of the panel included promoting economic empowerment and equality, eliminating the gender pay gap and increasing employment opportunities for women. To achieve each of these goals, the panel also recognized the need to end discriminatory barriers such as unfair laws and more responsibilities in the home.
True gender equality and empowerment for women and girls is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The co-chair of the U.N. High-Level Panel and CEO of IKEA Switzerland, Simona Scarpaleggia, urged leaders to take quicker action in order to meet the goal by 2030.
Women are overrepresented in support and office positions at 63 percent, while making up only 33 percent of managerial positions, according to IPS News. Leading by example, Scarpaleggia explained that companies can play an important role in equalizing opportunities for women. IKEA aims to reach a 50/50 gender balance on leadership roles by 2020. IKEA Switzerland has already achieved this goal.
During the panel, Executive Director of U.N. Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, implored countries and leaders to listen to women themselves to understand where and how their situations can be improved.
Implementing policies to promote women’s economic empowerment as well as equal conditions and inclusion of women in the labor force not only promotes economic empowerment and equality for women, but also will result in national and global sustainable economic development.
– Erica Rawles