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The pursuit of gender equality: How to win an uphill battle?

12 October 2017
by Guest author

Valerie Frey, OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs

Though there has been progress, gender equality is still a long way off. That is the key message in our latest report, The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, released 4 October. As I write in this OECD Observer article, policies are changing for the better, but much more improvement is needed to close gender gaps in all areas of social and economic life. No country is immune. The challenges are varied: more women should be encouraged to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), for instance, and more men should be encouraged to do their fair share of unpaid caregiving. Women should be better represented as entrepreneurs, in public life, and at the highest levels of the private sector.

There’s a lot to do, but we believe there is cause for optimism. Many countries now understand the importance of fathers in caregiving roles, for example, and now offer paid paternity and parental leave for dads for the time around childbirth. Fathers’ caregiving is crucial for reducing women’s unpaid work obligations and freeing them up to reach their full potential in society and in the economy. Women in the labour force still earn nearly 15% less than their male counterparts in every OECD country, but about two-thirds of OECD countries have introduced new pay equity policies since 2013. Pay transparency tools are being adopted to help nudge more employers towards equal pay between women and men.

But perhaps looming above all these issues is the imperative of preventing and ending violence against women. In fact, our survey data show that violence against women is widely reported by governments as the most urgent gender equality issue among countries adhering to the OECD Gender Recommendations (see chart). Anti-harassment laws are being introduced or reinforced in several countries, and awareness-raising campaigns about sexual harassment and its different manifestations have been launched, but more governments need to tackle violence against women with a multifaceted, whole-of-government approach. Violence affects multiple aspects of victims’ lives – including their education, employment, income, social protection, justice, security, and health – and must be targeted accordingly.

You can read about these issues in more detail in our new book. How can we win the uphill battle for gender equality? We’d love to hear your views on this important challenge.

References and links

Frey, Valerie (2017), More effort needed to make the grade on gender equality, OECD Observer, http://oe.cd/24r

OECD (2017), The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, OECD Publishing, Paris.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264281318-en

OECD (2016), 2015 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life, OECD Publishing, Paris.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264252820-en

OECD (2017), 2013 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship, OECD Publishing, Paris.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264279391-en

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