Throughout her career spanning more than two decades as a senior official at the world’s premier development organization – the World Bank Group, Margo Thomas, PhD has provided policy advice to over 50 national and sub-national governments. With a Doctoral Degree in Public Policy and Private Sector Development, her areas of focus include trade and competitiveness, women’s economic empowerment, business environment reform, regulatory reform, and investment policy. In April 2017, Dr. Thomas successfully completed her appointment as the Chief of Secretariat for the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. In her ongoing role as Founder and CEO of Women’s Economic Imperative, Dr. Thomas serves as a catalyst for initiatives aimed at increasing opportunities for the economic empowerment of disadvantaged and under-represented groups globally.
The time for gender economic equity is now!
“Globally, over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men.”
In January 2018, the World Economic Campaign launched its Davos 2018 campaign with an article proclaiming “Why 2018 must be the year for women to thrive” and declaring that ‘giving women and girls the opportunity to succeed is not only the right thing to do but can also transform societies and economies.’ The authors, two of the co-chairs of Davos 2018, made the case that ‘women’s potential is “macro-critical” . The reality is that “No economy can grow to its full potential unless both women and men participate fully. As half the world’s population, women have an equal role in driving economic growth”.’
According to the World Bank’s Women, Business and Law 2018 Report, “Women continue to face widespread barriers, entrenched in laws, that keep them out of jobs and prevent them from owning businesses.” These discriminatory laws affect women’s demand for financial services, effectively impeding their ability to save, borrow, pay or insure themselves against risk. Out of the 189 measured, no economy scores perfectly across all 7 topics, revealing that there is room for improvement everywhere”.’
With the events of 2017, including the explosion of #MeToo and the #GenderPayGap, particularly for the economies in the West and North, the issues of gender inequity have managed to grab news headlines. However, the challenge is to build momentum and effect change globally for the benefit of ALL – for inclusive growth, shared prosperity, global health and well-being, and sustainability – drawing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There is no one size fits all solution or silver bullet. Since women do not constitute a homogeneous group, solutions and strategies for action on gender economic equity must be targeted, taking into account the political and cultural dynamics in specific countries and communities. Moreover there are signs of progress. For example , the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2018 found that despite the challenges, “women continue to make notable headways in the entrepreneurial landscape. In 2016 alone, an estimated 163 million women were starting or running new businesses in 74 economies around the world”.
Bringing things closer to home, the findings of WES’ Women in Enterprise in Scotland Report is targeted and takes into account Scotland’s political and cultural dynamics. Specifically:
• Majority women owned businesses are 20% of all businesses in Scotland (and the UK)
• Women owned businesses in Scotland contribute £5bn to the Scottish economy
• If women in Scotland started up in business at the same rate as men, an additional £7.6bn would be added to the Scottish economy
• 80% of the women-led business survey respondents stated they faced specific challenges as women business owners including achieving credibility for their business or business idea; difficulties with childcare / caring responsibilities; discrimination and issues of confidence.
• 46% percent of women-led businesses surveyed said that they had experienced discrimination as female business owners
These statistics will be eye-opening to many and should not be ignored.
At the beginning of their presidencies in December 2017, both Canada (G7) and Argentina (G20) announced a cross-cutting gender approach to their respective agendas and there is increasing convergence on issues and solutions. Within the T20 Task Force on Gender Economic Equity, we have collaborated on the preparation of policy briefs and recommendations for action including the following:
1. Make women’s labour inclusion a priority to reduce by 25% the gender labour market participation gap by 2025
2. Relax constraints on women’s time by adopting policies to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work
3. Bridge the gender digital gap and build a future of work that works for women
4. Foster women’s financial inclusion
5. Mainstream gender in policy making and implementation at national and sub-national levels
6. Strengthen women’s voice and representation and promote positive changes in social norms affecting women
The efforts of WES and T20 Task Force converge and in the broader scheme of things can bring targeted change in contexts where there are opportunities to develop strategies and solutions. Everyone needs to act in order to drive the changes that are essential for gender equity – government, civil society, the private sector, academia, and individuals. We each have the power to take concrete action as individuals, through our institutional affiliations and our networks. So having read this article, what are you going to commit to doing? #Time4Action
 World Bank, 2018. Women, Business and Law Report. World Bank, Wash. DC.
 Christine Lagarde and Erna Solberg, 2018. Why 2018 must be the year for women to thrive, Geneva: WEF.
 Women, Business and Law Report, 2018. World Bank, Wash. DC.
 Women, Business and Law Report, 2018. World Bank, Wash. DC.
 Mastercard, 2018. Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs. https://newsroom.mastercard.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/MIWE_2018_Final_Report.pdf
 Sustainable Tourism (£3.9bn), Food & Drink (£4.1bn) and Creative Industries (£4.4bn) http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Business/SABS/KeyFacts