Accelerating gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls globally 2020

25 years after its adoption, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action remains the most comprehensive and transformative global agenda for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Its 2020 progress review for the first time takes place in the context of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2030 agenda, including sustainable development goal five on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, highlighted the central role of gender equality in progressing across all goals and targets.

The multi-stakeholder hearing on 21 July 2020 brought together parliamentarians, representatives and state members of the United Nations and General Assembly. Themes covered:

  • the risks of deepening inequalities and regression
  • the devaluing of women in the workplace, women and girls’ rights
  • how to ‘build back better’ post COVID-19 and enable women as drivers for sustainable development and progress

"When we trust them, we unleash their potential" - Abel Koka, Tanzania

COVID-19 has highlighted women’s and children’s issues and the disproportionate inequalities for women, particularly in the care sector.

Post-pandemic, women are 1.8 times more vulnerable to job loss than men and despite making up 39% of the global workforce, women have experienced 54% of overall job losses.

Without intervention, we could lose $1 trillion in global GDP growth. Fundamental changes such as promoting a Feminist Cultural Policy and Feminist Foreign Policy are needed to avoid this loss. If action is taken, such as prioritising education, embracing technology for women and investing in ways of engaging women’s interest, which starts at school, there is potential to gain $13 trillion in global GDP.

'Stay in School' incentive programmes ensure girls are protected and additional resources and training teach young women how to use their voice and exercise their rights. Attendees urged governments to consult and involve women to create a gender equal new normal.

"No woman should be left behind"

Gender-biased structural impacts are also affecting women, making them 1.8 times more likely than men to lose their jobs

Increased levels of domestic violence and attacks on human rights advisers demonstrate the need for better government protection and security. Societies need to understand that protecting women’s human rights advances the whole of society.

A danger of regressing back to old patriarchies has emerged and must be addressed.

Government intervention is not the only thing needed to move forward. Stephan Loerke, a senior representative from the advertising industry, spoke about the impact from advertising and the danger of reinforcing negative stereotypes.

The private sector has a responsibility to portray men and women in equal roles for better diversity and inclusivity.

UN Women lobbied for positive change in the industry which is now gaining traction and offers the opportunity for change and provides economic incentives for brands to embrace this.

"Women’s rights ensure that everyone’s human rights move forward" – Senator for Latin America

Without intervention, the Covid-19 crisis could reduce GDP in 2030 by $1 trillion

‘Achieving gender equality is everyone’s responsibility’

Gender parity improvements can lead to a $13 trillion increase in global economic output by 2030

To ‘build back better’, there is an explicit need to reverse the widening income gap between rich and poor and to protect vulnerable workers. Developing countries are experiencing the dire effects of climate change, such as extreme weather and food and water shortages.

Post-COVID, there will be vast numbers of people in poverty, the majority being women. To deal with the central issue of inequality we need inclusive, democratic processes that invest in social infrastructure, bolster society and the economy.

Leaders have a responsibility to alleviate global issues through working collaboratively with women, governments and across industries. The levelling up of women’s position in society is a vital part of the solution to reaching our 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. 

*Figures and exhibits used in this piece were sourced from COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects, July 2020, McKinsey Global Institute, Copyright (c) 2020 McKinsey & Company. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

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