Women Leadership Forum discusses the importance of gender equality – IDN-InDepthNews

By Aurora Weiss

VIENNA (IDN) — The wage gap between men and women, unequal access to education and the labor market: these issues remain relevant in the 21st century. Achieving full gender equality, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)could take almost 300 years if the current rate of progress continues, noted a report published by UN Women and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in early September.

In this context, the European brand institutein cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), organized the 10th “Women Leadership Forum” at Vienna International Center September 20.

The Forum was launched in 2013 with the round table “Equality creates values”, declared its founder, Ms. Renate Altenhofer. “Over the past ten years, the Forum has become a stage to make women leaders visible and raw role models for the next generation,” she added.

And this in particular given that the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, violent conflict, climate change and the backlash against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are further exacerbating gender disparities, according to the report.

The UN expects the pandemic to push an estimated 47 million more women and girls into extreme poverty and further widen the gender poverty gap. Data from 16 countries shows that women did 29% more childcare per week than men during the pandemic. Nearly one in two women said they or someone they knew had experienced violence since the start of the pandemic, according to survey results from 13 countries.

To improve the current situation and achieve progress, equal efforts are needed from men and women, said UNIDO Director-General Gerd Müller.

“We all have a responsibility. We need fundamental change in politics, the economy and society. This does not only require strong women, we also need committed men. For example, in countries Africans in positions of power, out of 54 states, only two are led by women.”

Equality for girls and women has many dimensions: cultural, social, economic and legal, Müller said. Equality before the law, political participation, economic life, equal educational opportunity for all girls and women around the world and, most importantly, the promotion of financial inclusion, are equally vital, he added. Currently, one billion women do not have access to the financial market, while women are crucial for peace, progress and the future of our planet.

The 2030 Agenda includes three pillars of sustainability: economic, social and environmental. It is therefore necessary to put women back at the heart of the economy.

For example, Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, mentioned her home country of Egypt, where women maintain most of the households. Unemployment is three times higher among women than among men. “It is clear that inclusiveness and diversity require effort. It is very difficult to achieve them because they touch the heart of our society. That is why it requires the commitment of women and men in leadership positions “, she pointed out.

“At UNODC, we believe that more women police officers, prosecutors, lawyers and judges will contribute to better protection of women against violence and lead to a more peaceful society. Women are underrepresented in this sector, and they are 1 in 6 police officers globally We know that the representation of women in law enforcement and justice institutions is linked to the effective response of victim support centers More women in the police sector justice are good for justice,” said Ms. Waly.

Gender equality is not only an issue in certain professions, but also needs to be addressed geographically. For example, even though women in Kenya are trained to access finance for agriculture, the problem arises that these funds cannot be used because women cannot legally own land.

The Arab region has the lowest female labor force participation rate in the world: 26% compared to the global average of 56%. In contrast, the male labor force participation rate is 76%, higher than the global average of 74%.

Female unemployment in the Arab States is 15.6%, three times the world average. The proportion of women in leadership positions is low in the region, with only 11% of women in leadership positions, compared to a global average of 27.1%.

Jordan has the lowest female economic participation rate of any country not at war.

According to an international labor organization (ILO) published this year, the activity rate for women is less than 15%, compared to around 60% for men.

For women in countries like Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, access to employment is even more limited, security issues are greater, support structures are poor and opportunities are even worse.

The gender imbalance in leadership positions is still significant. The data of the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2022 show that women still occupy less than a third of management positions.

Women and girls around the world continue to face barriers that limit their opportunities and challenge their future, U.S. Ambassador to Austria Victoria R. Kennedy said at the Women Leadership Forum in Vienna.

The American diplomat, lawyer, activist, widow and second wife of longtime United States Senator Ted Kennedy gave an inspirational speech. She emphasized how important role models are because when women achieve high office or succeed in business, they make an impact and enable future generations of women and girls to follow in their footsteps.

“Kamala Harris is the first female Vice President of the United States, and she is the first African-Asian American woman to hold such a high office. And when women rise to high office, we help pave the way for future generations of women and girls to follow in our footsteps,” said Ambassador Kennedy.

She also recalled how she chose her career path in the 1970s, when the women’s liberation movement in the United States was in full swing. Even though her father was a lawyer, she did not see herself in this profession because it was exclusively reserved for men. It took a male teacher to open his eyes, Ambassador Kennedy recalled.

The professor told him the story of Carla Hills, a lawyer. She had just been appointed by the President of the United States to be his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. At that time, in the mid-1970s, Carla Hills was only the fourth woman to serve as a cabinet secretary in all of United States history. The professor challenged her with a simple, life-changing question: “If she can do it, then why can’t you?” [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 October 2022]

Photo: A preview of the Women Leadership Forum. Credit: Katharina Schiffl.

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