UN brain trust to tackle unleashing women’s economic power

NEW YORK: Academics, economists and top members of business and labor have been tapped by the United Nations to find ways to unleash women’s economic potential and promote female leadership in a first-of-its-kind initiative, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

The Women’s Economic Empowerment Panel will make recommendations to reach gender equality and empower women, one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the 193 UN member nations have approved for implementation by 2030, he said.

“The empowerment of the world’s women is a global imperative,” said Ban, who spoke at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

“We need a quantum leap in women’s economic empowerment.” The panel will meet in March to seek solutions to persistent women’s inequality, he said.

While women’s rights have been on the UN agenda for decades, with the 1995 World Conference on Women and creation of UN Women in 2010, this will be the first time experts and policy leaders will be brought together in a panel setting focused on tackling economic gender inequality, the U.N said.

“Investing in girls and women isn’t just about basic human rights, it’s about fully unlocking the potential of half the world’s population,” said British International Development Secretary Justine Greening, a member of the panel.

The UN-led drive comes amid efforts to increase women’s representation in corporate boardrooms and government legislatures, said Julie Suk, a professor at Yeshiva University in New York with expertise in antidiscrimination law.

“The real challenge will be whether or not having more women’s representation in decision-making positions trickles down to actual on-the-ground economic empowerment for women in all levels of society,” she said.

The panel will seek to galvanize political will for action aimed at closing economic gender gap, the UN said. Globally, women are paid 24 cents less than men on average for the same work, it said, and they also bear most of the burden of unpaid care taking and domestic work.

If women in every nation were to play a role identical to men in markets, some $28 trillion could be added to the global economy by 2025, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

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