9 March 2017
UN Marks International Women’s Day with Calls for a Different World of Work
Photo by IISD/ENB
story highlights

The UN marked International Women’s Day, which focused on the theme, ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030'.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called for a different world of work for women in which women and girls are exposed to a range of careers and encouraged to make choices that include art, industry, public service, and science.

8 March 2017: The UN marked International Women’s Day 2017 with messages on educating and empowering women and girls to achieve gender equality in the workplace and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 5 (gender equality). The day focused on the theme, ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.’

UN Women highlighted the gender gap in work, stating that women take on 2.5 times more unpaid work than men, and the global gender pay gap is 23%. Approximately 50% of working age women are represented in the global labor force compared to 76% of men, with women facing barriers like lack of flexible working arrangements and unequal pay. UN Women also developed a quiz, ‘Women in the world of work’, which highlights the disproportionate burden of unpaid work borne by women and the pay gap, among other inequalities. UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, called for a “different world of work for women,” in which women and girls are exposed to a range of careers and encouraged to make choices that include art, industry, public service and science. She said change should begin at home and in the early years of school, and include adjustments in parenting, educational settings and curricula, and stereotypes in advertising and entertainment. In areas where women are already represented, Mlambo-Ngcuka recommended making “those industries work better for women” by ensuring equal terms and conditions for women, social protections and support for women entrepreneurs. She also said advancing women’s equality could increase global gross domestic product (GDP) by US$12 trillion by 2025. She concluded, “Adjustments must happen on all sides if we are to … realize the benefits that will come to all from the equal world envisaged in our Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced that he is establishing a roadmap with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the UN system. He also committed to increasing women’s participation in the UN’s peace and security work, and called on society to “overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark called for encouraging girls to study science, technology, engineering and math and ensuring access to new technologies for women in all societies, while UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova supported education and training for girls and women to give them the possibility to pursue careers in culture, politics and research. L’Oréal and UNESCO announced 15 winners of the ‘For Women in Science’ awards that recognize young women researchers and aim to help them pursue their work.

The UN human rights office launched a joint report with the African Union (AU) and UN Women on ‘Women’s Rights in Africa.’ The report finds that currently women are denied full enjoyment of their rights in every African country, with some African countries lacking legal protection for women against domestic violence and allowing female genital mutilation and forced marriages. Conversely, the report highlights that, when women access education, skills and jobs, countries enjoy increased prosperity, well-being and positive health outcomes. The report calls on African governments to encourage the full and productive employment of women, to recognize unpaid care and domestic work, and ensure women’s access to and control over their economic and financial resources. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said progress has resulted in a backlash against women’s rights, and cited countries with legislation that limits women’s rights.

A commemoration of the Day at UN Headquarters in New York, US featured an interactive panel discussion with UN, government and private sector representatives and a keynote address by UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Anne Hathaway on unpaid care work and paid parental leave. Hathway called for countries, companies and institutions to become champions for paid parental leave, and announced that Danone Global will implement a global 18-week gender-neutral paid parental leave policy by 2020. Also in New York, UN Women launched HeforShe Arts Week, which aims to raise awareness and funding for gender equality through the arts.

Additional events took place in more than 50 countries and included arts, sports and academic activities. In Bangkok, Thailand, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in coordination with the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the UN Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women commemorated the Day by highlighting Asia-Pacific governments’ commitments to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Progamme (WFP) emphasized their commitments to increasing investments in the capacities of rural women to help achieve the SDGs, particularly SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 2 (zero hunger).

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) announced ten recipients of its inaugural ‘Leading Women Awards.’ The award showcases outstanding female leaders at WBCSD member companies who are working to contribute to the SDGs. WBCSD President and CEO Peter Bakker said the Council is taking steps to push for a more gender-balanced approach, noting that women compose 66% of its workforce, but only 16% of its senior management team and 6% of its executive committee.

UN agencies also showcased their work on women, girls and gender equality on the Day. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) highlighted efforts to advance women’s role in environmental sectors and address gender gaps in its programs and projects. The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) stressed the importance of gender equality in achieving the SDGs, the CBD and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, describing women’s full and equitable participation in natural resources as critical in conserving and sustainably using biodiversity. [UN Women Press Release] [UN Press Release] [UN Women Executive Director Statement] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNESCO Director-General Statement] [UNDP Administrator Statement] [UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Statement] [UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Statement] [UNDP Our Perspective Piece] [A Father’s Pledge to Stand Up for Every Daughter, Everywhere] [UNDP Webpage on International Women’s Day] [Quiz: Women in the world of work] [UNDP Photo Essay] [UNRIC Press Release] [FAO Press Release] [IFAD Press Release] [WBCSD Press Release] [UNESCO Press Release] [GEF Press Release] [CBD Press Release] [Publication: Women’s Rights in Africa][ESCAP Event Webpage]

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