Location: Jack Morton Auditorium
Achieving comprehensive economic development and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require a decisive challenge to existing barriers to women’s economic equality. With that in mind, the UN Secretary General recently established a High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment to address the most persistent gender gaps that “constrain women’s rights and hinder economic growth and productivity.” The heads of both the IMF and the World Bank are members, along with prominent voices from civil society, academia, and business.
Using recommendations from the High Level Panel and recent IMF research as a background, this session will explore how macroeconomic policy should be used as a tool to advance women’s economic empowerment and equality. It will look at what political leaders and international institutions such as the IMF should do differently to achieve the SDGs (and especially SDG No. 5 on gender equality), looking at the four focus areas of the UN High Level Panel: (i) eliminating legal barriers to female economic empowerment, (ii) addressing the care economy, (iii) reducing gender pay gaps, and (iv) expanding opportunities for women who work informally.
Sheila MacVicar is an award-winning anchor and senior TV correspondent. She recently hosted Al Jazeera America's foreign policy show Compass and was a senior correspondent for America Tonight reporting mostly on intelligence and social issues. Originally from Montreal, she's been a correspondent for more than three decades. She first joined the CBC where she was co-host of a primetime current affairs magazine, before working as a foreign correspondent for ABC News, CNN and CBS News. Her reporting has earned her many accolades, including three Emmys, a Peabody and a duPont Award.
David Lipton has been First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund since 2011. Before coming to the Fund, he was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for International Economic Affairs at the White House. Previously, he served as Under Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Treasury.
Claver Gatete, Minister of Finance, Rwanda
Claver Gatete is the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda. Until his appointment to the Finance Ministry, he served as Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda since May 2011. He is not new to the Ministry which he served in as Secretary General and Secretary to the Treasury from 2003 to 2005. From 2001 to 2003, he worked in the Office of the President as a Personal Representative of the President on NEPAD Steering Committee; Coordinator of the National African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), member of the APR National Commission; and Member of the NEPAD’s African Partnership Forum (APF). Before joining the Office of the President, Claver Gatete worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a National Economist.
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Chair, ActionAid
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, a human rights lawyer, is Chair of the ActionAid International Board. She is also the African Union’s Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage and recently served as the General Secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Association. Ms. Gumbonzvanda worked for over 10 years with the UN, as UNIFEM Regional Director, and as UNICEF Human Rights Officer in Liberia and Zimbabwe and recently served in the UN Commission on Information and Accountability on Women and Children’s Health. She served as a member of the World Bank’s Advisory Council on Women. She is the Founder and Chief Executive of Rozaria Memorial Trust and an active member of women’s organizations including the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association.
James Heintz, Professor of Economic, University of Massachusetts, Amhers
James Heintz is Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts. He is one of the authors of the UN Women’s flagship report, Progress of the World’s Women 2015-16: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights. He has worked on projects with international institutions such as the Human Development Report Office, the ILO, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, UNDP, and the South African Human Rights Commission. His policy research has included work in Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, the Gambia, Madagascar, and South Africa. His current work examines labor market and poverty outcomes; economic policy choices, and human rights; fertility, family formation, and macroeconomics; and informal employment.
Kalpana Kochhar, Director Human Resources, IMF
Kalpana Kochhar is the Director of the Human Resources Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Prior to taking this position, she held several senior positions in the Asia Pacific Department, the Research Department, and the Strategy, Policy, and Review Department. She was also Chief Economist for the South Asia Region at the World Bank. She has spearheaded the Fund’s work on gender and is currently the Deputy to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in the UN high-level forum on women economic empowerment. Ms. Kochhar’s research interests and publications have been on emerging markets, gender and inequality issues, structural reforms, and regional integration in South Asia.
Elizabeth Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO and member of the ITUC’s Women’s Committee
Elizabeth Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO, one of three top-level officers for the largest federation of labor unions in the U.S. The first-ever woman elected to the position in 2009, she was also the youngest officer ever to sit on the federation's Executive Council. Prior to that, she was part of the leadership of the Electrical Workers (IBEW). Ms. Shuler has been at the forefront of progressive labor initiatives, such as green job programs and the fight for workers' rights. She represents the AFL-CIO on various boards, including the Women's Committee at the International Trade Union Confederation.
Contributor: Inderjit Sian
The seminar explored how macroeconomic policy should be used as a tool to advance women’s economic empowerment and equality. The panelists considered what political leaders and international institutions should do to achieve this, including on areas such as eliminating barriers to female economic empowerment, addressing the care economy, reducing gender pay gaps, and expanding opportunities for women who work informally.
In his opening remarks, David Lipton highlighted that empowering women remains a key challenge with only half of the working-age population of women employed; an over-representation of women in the informal sector; and the persistence of a significant pay gap. He stated that while this remains a moral issue, empowering women also offers many economic benefits, for example, eliminating gender employment gaps could increase GDP by as much as much as 5 percent in the United States, 19 percent in Japan, and 27 percent in India. He further noted that women’s empowerment supports economic diversification, provides more stable and sustainable growth, and reduces inequality through a reduction in gender inequality. Noting these benefits, he pointed out that the Fund is focused on providing policy advice that harnesses women’s potential ranging from better childcare solutions to more active labor market policies. He also highlighted that the Fund is working with other institutions including the UN, and is taking specific actions to empower women including by strengthening its policy advice to support female labor participation, by conducting research on the impact of policies on gender inequality and growth, and by promoting gender budgeting.
- Message on inequality: Gumbonzvanda expressed concerns about using women as an instrument for growth. She stressed that gender inequality was a human rights issue and that the discussion was more than women providing input into the labor force. Kochhar stressed that the issue was not about instrumentalizing women, but rather creating a level playing field. Gatete noted that society needs to fully understand the benefits of equality for there to be real progress. Gumbonzvanda also stressed the need to change gender norms and attitudes, and in particular that women are less capable than their male counterparts.
- Informality and unpaid work: Noting that the labor market reflects paid and unpaid work, Heintz pointed out GDP does not capture the unpaid element, which is necessary to facilitate the paid element of work, for instance, free childcare. He stressed that while labor participation matters, it is also important to capture women’s contribution in the unpaid sector which is estimated by the OECD to be in the region of 15-40 percent of GDP. Shuler highlighted that if 2 percent of GDP were invested in the care economy in OECD countries, employment would increase between 2-6 percent, which would translate to an increase of about 13 million jobs in the United States.
- Policies: In reference to Rwanda’s high ranking on the WEF gender equality index, Gatete highlighted that this was the result of a number of policies to ensure women are placed on an equal footing on areas such as labor laws, inheritance laws, access to education and finance. He stressed that this is paramount to allow women to make an equal contribution to economic growth. Heintz also stressed the importance of childcare, which has been shown to have a long-term impact on economic performance. Gumbonzvanda raised concerns that authorities are not doing enough to prioritize and invest in care facilities and emphasized the needs for greater social responsibility from the public sector. She stressed that the IMF has a critical role in ensuring that priority services are not affected. Kochhar highlighted that the Fund will be focusing more on the differential impact of policies on men and women going forward.
- Gender-budgeting: Gumbonzvanda welcomed the focus on gender budgeting, but called for more work on creating fiscal space by addressing issues such as a limited revenue base and illicit financing. Kochhar noted the importance of more progressive tax systems, which could be funded through a broader and more effective tax base. She also stressed that prudent macroeconomic plans to control debt and deficits in the future buys fiscal space through greater credibility. Gatete pointed out that it was equally important to consider the expenditure side of public finances.
“In this challenging economic environment, the empowerment of women could be a game changer for the global economy”, David Lipton, Deputy Managing Director, IMF
“You have to give more chances to women to ensure that they are empowered to participate in society”, Claver Gatete, Minister of Finance, Rwanda
“The issue of quality is asked of women, but never asked of men…that’s where the social norms lie and where the bar is raised a little bit higher for women” Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Chair, ActionAid
“Research by James Heckman shows that investment in early childhood development has a long-term impact on economic performance…as it affects…educational attainment and the accumulation of human capital” James Heintz, Aldo Caliari, Professor of Economic, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“The focus of the Fund’s work is now shifting to what is the impact of our macroeconomic policies, in the context of surveillance and in the context of programs, differentially between men and women.” Kalpana Kochhar, Director HR, IMF