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Will the Ise-Shima Summit Generate Growth Through Gender Equality?

Julia Kulik, Senior Researcher, G7 and G20 Research Groups
May 25, 2016

Achieving gender equality worldwide does not need an economic justification, but when one looks for one the evidence is glaring. For over ten years, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in its annual Global Gender Gap Report has highlighted the correlation between a country's gender gap and its economic performance. Women make up just over half of the world's population and its human capital. Yet major gaps remain in women's participation in the labour force. Significant macroeconomic gains can be made by bringing more women into the workforce.

Much progress has been made in eliminating the gender gap in education in all regions of the world but not enough has been done to get these educated women into the labour force. Eliminating barriers to female employment would allow an influx of educated women to contribute to the competitiveness of their country's economies. In countries with agriculture-based economies, gender inequality can significantly reduce productivity as an unequal distribution of resources leads to inefficiencies that lower yields. A more competitive and productive workforce also attracts higher rates of investment in physical capital and by improving women's wage rates lead to higher formal savings.

The G7/8 formally recognised the importance of female economic empowerment in its communiqué at the 1990 Houston Summit. However, throughout the first decade of the 21st century, the G7/8 focused on women mainly in the context of health and education. There was a great surge in 2015 at the Schloss Elmau Summit, when female economic empowerment was made a priority. There was a record number of 29 commitments on gender or gender-related issues, including a commitment to increase the number of women and girls in developing countries who receive vocational training by 2030. There was also an emphasis on the importance of women's entrepreneurship as a key driver of innovation, growth and jobs.

G7/8 leaders also committed to counter gender stereotyping by developing certain measures for girls to enroll in and complete education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This will also be a priority when G7 leaders assemble tomorrow for the 2016 summit at Ise-Shima. There is hope that progress will be reported on the commitments made last year and that comprehensive plans will be laid out on the reconciliation of work and family life for men and women, an essential component to increasing the number of women in the workforce.

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Julia Kulik
Julia Kulik, MPP, is a senior researcher for the G7 and G8 Research Group, G20 Research Group, BRICS Research Group and Global Health Diplomacy Program, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She has researched and written on G8, G20 and BRICS performance particularly on the issues of regional security and gender equality. She has recently co-authored articles entitled "Generating Global Health Governance through BRICS Summitry" in Contemporary Politics and "Connecting Climate Change and Health through Global Summitry"in World Medical and Health Policy. She has delivered several papers including "A BRICS Alliance within the G20? Assessing the Performance of BRICS Members" at PUC Minas in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, "The Role of Space and Place in Informal Security Arrangements: The Case of the G8" at the 2014 International Studies Association Convention in Toronto and "Working for Women's Security" at the Pre-G8 Summit Conference at Queen's University, Belfast in June 2013. Julia leads the group's work on gender, women's health, regional security and summit performance.

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