UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Anne Hathaway calls on leaders of the business community worldwide to put women at the heart of economic growth

Bali, Indonesia — In the midst of interlinked crises around the world threatening progress on women’s rights and pushing women out of the paid economy, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Anne Hathaway has today called for women to be at the heart of economic growth and recovery.

Speaking via video message at the Business 20 (B20), the official G20 dialogue forum with the global business community tasked with formulating policy recommendations to the G20 Presidency, meeting today in Bali, Ms Hathaway said: “As fuel and food prices rise globally, amid the climate emergency and sustained military conflicts, women’s incomes – as well as their contributions to businesses’ success and the recovery of markets — matter even more than ever. This year, in 169 countries and areas – that’s most of the world – women’s labour force participation is expected to stay below pre-pandemic levels.”

UN Women research shows that more women than men left the workforce in 2020 due to the pandemic, to face the added care burden that came with the stay-at-home mandates, and have also stayed out of the job market longer. Women are also shouldering a bigger share of the care work at home – at least three times as many hours as men, which led to women doing an additional 512 billion hours of unpaid care at home.

UN Women’s Executive Director, Sima Bahous, emphasised that the world’s future progress depends on women’s skills and leadership, observing how, during the COVID-19 pandemic, “women sustained their families, staffed our health-care systems and invented lifesaving vaccines. As leaders of countries, women instigated some of the most effective responses to the pandemic.” According to recent data from UN Women, where women were better represented in governments, and where feminist movements are stronger, crisis response was more gender sensitive and effective for everyone. “Systemic, gendered crises require systemic, gendered solutions,” Ms Bahous said, urging leaders at the Summit to centre women’s and girls’ voices, agency, participation and leadership in all their plans, and invest in and consult with women’s groups and organisations to ensure their vital contributions.

“Progress for women and girls is in dramatic reverse in many countries. Rights and freedoms that women and girls had experienced as normal – to work, to learn, to make choices about their bodies – have been abruptly taken away.  Some of those losses have been legislated or imposed by governing authorities against courageous resistance. Others have been brought to light and sharpened by unprecedented global crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic,” added Ms Hathaway.

But the crisis also offers an opportunity to strengthen care policies and systems. Increasing and implementing commitments to transform the care economy will accelerate an equitable economic recovery. As part of the effort to transform the global care agenda, UN Women and the Government of Mexico co-convened in December 2021 the Global Alliance for Care. The Alliance focuses on six core commitments, including promoting the generation of data and evidence on care; investing in social and physical care infrastructure; and fostering positive social norms through awareness campaigns.

Originally published on UN Women’s regional site for Asia and the Pacific