Closing the gender gap: a top priority for the Italian G7 Presidency

8 march
8 march

The International Women's Day offers a great opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women and girls worldwide. Yet, progress has slowed in many places around the world. This is why today must mark a call for action: we must accelerate gender equality and renew efforts to remove persistent social, cultural and economic barriers that still prevent the full participation of women and girls in public and private spheres.

Over the past few decades, women and girls everywhere have pushed the boundaries on educational attainment, political representation, and economic participation. Yet this progress has not been enough to close the gender gap. Regrettably, only about half of all women are in the labor force, compared with about four-fifths of all men, and we are still far from an “equal pay for equal work” society. In both developing and developed countries, women and girls carry out most of the unpaid care and domestic work, and they are more likely to have informal and precarious jobs; women and girls are more likely than men and boys to be excluded from education throughout their lives and their participation in public life remains uneven. This considerably weakens their ability to influence policy.

A major obstacle to women’s economic empowerment is violence. First and foremost, gender-based violence remains an unacceptable, dramatic and widespread violation of human rights. Economic autonomy can untie women from violent situations – which are often domestic – whereas economic dependence inevitably increases vulnerabilities. Globally, over half of all women experience violence in their lifetime. Women represent 55% of the victims of forced labor and 98% of the victims of sexual exploitation.

The issue of gender equality has recently assumed increasing importance for the G7. In 2015, for the first time, the German Presidency prioritized women’s economic empowerment as one of the key issues on the G7 Agenda. It also added a gender lens to many other issue areas, including food security, post-conflict resolution and global health. Last year, the 2016 Japanese Presidency continued along this line, by reaffirming its support to women’s economic empowerment and by highlighting the importance of tackling gender inequalities as regards access to STEM.

Building on previous G7 work, the Italian Government has made a clear choice by listing gender equality as a top priority of this year’s G7 Presidency and intends to foster gender mainstreaming across its entire Agenda. Our focus is women's economic empowerment and independence. This is not only right but smart. We are committed to a gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development because it fosters smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, prosperity and competitiveness as well as the overall well-being of our societies. Women and girls count for more than half of the world population. As human capital remains the most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness or an organization’s performance, the healthy development and appropriate use of half of the world’s available talent pool is decisive in determining whether and how societies thrive.

If efforts to tackle this situation are not stepped up, the current megatrends of change – such as climate change, demographic trends, migration flows and the Next Production Revolution – will affect females disproportionately. We cannot afford to wait any longer; now is the time to accelerate development and reduce inequalities. Girls and women can become the greatest ally and a powerful agent of change for more sustainable, inclusive, integrated, equitable and climate-compatible economic development in their own communities and throughout society. Furthermore, men and boys must be involved from the start: no progress will be made in the creation of a new inclusive culture, one that revolves around respect and equality, without their engagement.

Raffaele Trombetta