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Recommendations of the Gender Equality Advisory Council 2021
to the Leaders of the G7

June 11, 2021


  1. Call to Action
  2. Members of the Gender Equality Advisory Council
  3. Recommendations

1. Call to Action

We, the Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC), welcome the open society values shared by the Group of Seven (G7) and the recognition that gender equality is integral to those values. We further recognise the strength of collective commitments made by G7 countries. Women and girls must have the same opportunities and rights – political, economic, social and cultural – as men. Just as women have been at the centre of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as health workers, care workers, scientists and teachers, they must equally be at the heart of a recovery that ensures their rights, meets their needs and recognises their contributions. We challenge G7 Leaders to be ambitious for all women, including but not limited to those marginalised by race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and socio-economic status.

Our starting point this year is the mounting evidence that COVID-19 risks a step back for gender equality globally, unless governments take urgent action. Despite the centrality of women in the response, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and girls everywhere by exacerbating existing inequalities. The GEAC's analysis has focused in particular on three linked, core themes: girls' education and the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); women's empowerment; and eradicating violence against women and girls.

GEAC members have pooled their experience, expertise and skills to develop recommendations that are practical, concrete and actionable. Across the three themes there are common mechanisms: measurement and accountability, representation, inclusion and legislation. We need to measure women's participation so that we know if action is needed. We need women to be visible in positions of authority, and to bring a diversity of experience to all organisations. We need to acknowledge and tackle the barriers to women's inclusion. And finally, we need governments to legislate in a way that supports increased gender equality. This all starts with a quality education for every girl on the planet.

The GEAC calls for:

  1. An acknowledgement of the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on women and girls, globally, and increased funding for, and dedicated action towards gender-transformative development programming, sexual and reproductive health services, and addressing the 'shadow pandemic' of violence against women and girls (VAWG).

  2. A pandemic response and recovery that takes account of the needs of women and girls, and tracks the effect of recovery initiatives on men and women, taking into account factors such as age, income, disability and ethnicity.

  3. At least 12 years of gender-transformative education for all, building on G7 Foreign and Development Ministers' commitments on girls' education and, domestically, supporting schools to implement gender-responsive policies to benefit girls' physical and mental wellbeing.

  4. Strengthened domestic and international social care infrastructure, and access to affordable quality care, including childcare, through increased public investment to address gender imbalances in care work, both paid and unpaid.

  5. Equal access to capital and labour markets, through removing barriers and creating opportunities for jobs and funding for women to thrive in the modern economy, and tailoring policies to support women-owned micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

  6. Recognition of the impact that global trade has on women as traders, workers and consumers, with G7 Leaders building trading relationships that benefit women and girls around the world.

  7. A gender-responsive approach to climate financing, investment and policies, including at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), and for G7 Leaders to target investment in girls' education, re-skilling of women, and lifelong learning to ensure that women and girls can benefit from the 'green revolution'.

  8. Acknowledgement of the risk to global prosperity and women's economic empowerment caused by a gender imbalance in STEM education and careers, and commitment to prioritising progress towards gender parity through concrete action.

  9. Action to address the digital gender divide by supporting initiatives that provide women and girls in all areas with affordable, reliable and safe internet and mobile services; and to counteract algorithm bias which puts women, girls and marginalised groups at a disadvantage.

  10. An end to the stereotyping and unequal treatment of women in the media, including by endorsing the Generation Equality Forum Charter of Commitments for Cultural and Creative Industries.

  11. Global action to end violence against women and girls through increased investment in prevention and response; the ratification of relevant conventions, including the Istanbul Convention; and enhanced support for eradicating female genital mutilation (FGM).

  12. Action to tackle online harassment and abuse of women and girls, through the introduction of legislation that establishes a duty of care on technology companies to improve the safety of users online, including appropriate controls for online pornography sites.

  13. Condemnation of sexual violence used as a weapon of war as an international red line, by developing an International Convention to denounce it, in line with other prohibited weapons in war such as landmines and chemical weapons.

  14. Continued action to drive monitoring of progress on gender equality, and accountability on commitments, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, through the establishment of a G7 GEAC observatory mechanism to measure and report on G7 progress.

The GEAC also notes that women are under-represented politically, as voters and as leaders in international institutions, local and national governments; including G7 decision-making structures. We call on G7 Leaders to reconvene the GEAC under each G7 Presidency to ensure women's voices are hard-wired into the process, and to monitor gender balance among leaders and their delegations in future years.

We are pleased to present these recommendations to G7 Leaders ahead of a further report in the autumn. We look for greater horizons of opportunity for women and girls and the tearing down of barriers which impede them. We call on the G7 to take on board the recommendations and advice of the Women 7[1] and the Generation Equality Forum[2], and to make bold commitments and deliver game-changing results for women and girls in all their diversity to build back better.

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2. Members of the Gender Equality Advisory Council

CHAIR: Sarah Sands, Former editor of the Evening Standard and BBC Radio 4's Today programme

Alice P. Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education
Prof. Jutta Allmendinger, President of the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre and Professor of Sociology at Humboldt University Berlin
Hon Julie Bishop, Former Foreign Minister for Australia
Prof. Iris Bohnet, Co-director of Harvard's Women and Public Policy Program
Ursula M. Burns, Former CEO of Xerox and leader of the White House STEM programme
Dr Fabiola Gianotti, Physicist and Director General, CERN
Prof. Sarah Gilbert, Lead researcher at Oxford University for the coronavirus vaccine
Isabelle Hudon, Canada's Ambassador to France and Monaco
Dr (H.C.) Ritu Karidhal, Deputy Operations Director to India's Mars Orbiter Mission, Mangalyaan
Bogolo J. Kenewendo, Economist and former Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry in Botswana
Prof. Reiko Kuroda, Professor of Chemistry and Biology at Chubu University and winner of the L'Oreal-UNESCO award for Women in Science
Dr Dambisa Moyo, Global economist and co-Principal of Versaca Investments
Dr Denis Mukwege, Gynaecologist, human rights activist and Nobel peace laureate
Marie-Christine Saragosse, President and CEO of France Médias Monde
Emma Sinclair MBE, Tech entrepreneur and Co-Founder of EnterpriseAlumni
Dr Aldijana Šišic, Chief of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Women)
Dame Rachel de Souza, Children's Commissioner for England
Jessica Woodroffe, W7 Co-Chair and Director of Gender and Development Network

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3. Recommendations

3.1 Resources to redress the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and girls, in all contexts, domestic and international, with those impacts varying according to age, income, disability, ethnicity and other factors.[3]

Women are at the frontline of the COVID-19 response, as health workers, scientists, community volunteers and carers. They have taken on a greater burden of unpaid care work and home schooling, and are at increased risk of loss of livelihood and financial insecurity. COVID-19 response measures, including lockdowns and school closures, have contributed to the 'shadow pandemic', an increase[4] and intensification of violence against women and girls (VAWG), by for example isolating survivors of domestic abuse with their abusers. Other forms of VAWG, including female genital mutilation (FGM) and early and forced marriage, have also increased. The mental health of women, particularly young women and girls, has been worse than that of men throughout the pandemic, exacerbating existing health inequalities.

In addition, critical services, including sexual and reproductive health care, antenatal services, safe delivery services, family planning and domestic abuse services have been reduced. This is likely to result in an increased risk of maternal mortality, unintended pregnancies and other adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes among women and girls. Research shows that maternal deaths have increased, due to women delaying attendance at hospital or concealing pregnancy, as well as decreased access to such services deemed non-essential by national or local governments.

This regression is an urgent driver to further increase investment in gender equality and women's empowerment, an area where both global and national efforts remain chronically underfunded, despite its importance for the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The threat of funding reversals comes at a time when strength and sustained support is most needed.[5] Whilst women's rights organisations stepped up to fill the gaps in state service provision, their urgent funding is needed to continue essential service provision in a safe and sustainable way; to continue prevention programming; and to prevent closures of their organisations due to the COVID-19 crisis.

We call on the Leaders of the G7 to:



3.2 A COVID-19 recovery and response that takes account of the needs of women and girls

In general, women are under-represented in decision-making on pandemic response and recovery.[7] In many contexts, data on the impact of COVID-19 and response measures is inadequate in terms of taking account of gender differences, as well as other factors that exacerbate inequalities.

Robust gender equality impact assessments that also take account of age, income, disability, ethnicity, caring responsibilities and socio-economic background need to be mandated in the design and financing of fiscal stimulus packages and social assistance programmes to achieve greater equality. Services for victims and survivors of gender-based violence should be classed as essential and explicitly recognised in future pandemic preparedness plans.

We call on the Leaders of the G7 to:

3.3 Access to at least 12 years of (gender-transformative) education

Evidence from the World Bank suggests that investments in school age girls have the highest returns in advancing gender equality.[8] However, across the world girls' education has been adversely and disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns and school closures exacerbating inequalities and costing an estimated 20 million additional girls their education. Being out of school puts adolescent girls at increased risk of different forms of abuse, including forced and child marriage, FGM, unintended pregnancies, domestic and child labour, and sexual and domestic violence. The lifelong impacts of missing out on education and learning are vast, not only in earnings and standard of living, but also safety and physical and mental health.[9]

Universal girls' education is a binding force which would drive progress against all G7 policy priorities, from increasing climate resilience, decreasing disaster-related deaths, adding trillions to the global economy and creating fairer, more equal, democratised societies. Girls' education is a key component of building back a more resilient society, with educated girls and women better able to prepare for, adapt to, and bounce back from crisis. But access to education is not the only challenge. Schools that entrench toxic gender stereotypes, or do not meet basic safety and sanitation needs, can be harmful to girls and prevent them from reaching their full potential. We must engage men and boys as a proven positive accelerant to the repositioning of girls and women in society.

We welcome the G7's commitment to mobilising financial and technical resources in support of girls' education this year, including through the Global Partnership for Education. To build on this, a comprehensive 'whole of child' approach is needed, which breaks down silos between child protection, education, health and other areas. Girls must be supported in every sphere to develop the skills and knowledge needed to claim and exercise their rights, and empower them to be leaders and decision-makers.

We call on Leaders of the G7 to:



3.4 The care economy

In every country women are still less likely to engage in paid work than men, bearing the responsibility for the majority of unpaid care and domestic work.[10] Unpaid work constrains women and girls in their ability to take up paid work and attend and achieve at school. The disproportionate share of unpaid work that falls on women has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.[11] Widespread and long-term closures of schools and day-care centres have increased childcare needs, which further increases the burden of care work. This has been particularly pronounced in sectors under high stress from the pandemic – such as health and social care – in which women are overrepresented in the workforce. Globally, women business owners also appear to have been disproportionately impacted by additional care work.[12]

We agree with the Civil Society 7, Women 7 and others that G7 governments must recognise the importance of the care economy in securing prosperity for all by investing an additional 2% of Gross Domestic Product into social infrastructure to create gender-responsive public health and care services that improve service provision for the most marginalised, reduce women's unpaid care burdens and create decent work for women. We must eliminate systems which promote unequal care structures, and incentivise men and boys to participate equally in unpaid care and domestic work.

We call on Leaders of the G7 to:



3.5 Access to capital and labour markets

Financial independence and access to capital and labour markets are crucial components of economic empowerment, and central to women's financial independence globally. Women more often face barriers to finance, insurance and business ownership, thereby hindering women's entrepreneurship and their advancement within corporate structures. Globally, women are overrepresented in informal and vulnerable employment, earn an estimated 77% of men's income, and are more likely than men to be unemployed. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated existing labour market inequalities.

Although gender pay gap figures and estimates vary depending on methodology, the average gender gap in labour income (GGLI) in OECD countries remains wide at 40%.[13] The traditional gender wage gap for full-time employees further increases with age and especially during parenthood,[14] making it important to further consider measures of lifetime earnings. Whilst companies are increasingly putting in place corporate policies and strategies on gender equality, it is evident that government legislation, policies and incentives are required to bring about systemic change.

We call on Leaders of the G7 to:

3.6 Trade

Global trade has an impact on women as traders, workers and consumers. An estimated 192 million women in OECD and middle-income countries work in global value chains, accounting for 42% of global value chain employment.[15] Women tend to be concentrated in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs face particular barriers in participating in trade, such as having fewer resources to meet the high costs often associated with engaging in international markets, and less capacity to address complex regulatory requirements.[16] Helping women take advantage of export opportunities, as well as upgrading women's production in the value chain, could maximise the gains from trade for women and the wider global economy.

G7 governments must work together to build mutually beneficial and sustainable trading relationships that benefit women around the world, and facilitate equitable growth for the G7's current and future trading partners. Identifying future trade patterns and ensuring women have meaningful access to those sectors will be vital.

We call on Leaders of the G7 to:

3.7 Climate change and the green economy

Climate change and biodiversity loss produce dramatically unequal impacts across social groups, with the most marginalised and those with intersecting vulnerabilities – such as ethnicity, age, disability and income – often most severely affected. Women are more likely to die in a climate disaster, be displaced by climate change, or die from pollution.[17] Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss effectively requires taking account of at-risk populations, including girls and women and other marginalised groups and communities.

Successfully transitioning to a Net Zero and nature-positive future will depend on the ability to harness all possible talent globally. Worldwide, women account for 32% of the renewable energy workforce, with 45% working in administrative positions and 28% working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related roles. The development and diffusion of green technologies, including through timely implementation of the G7 Industrial Decarbonization Agenda, offer opportunities to both generate jobs and accelerate the transition to Net Zero. But existing barriers to women's economic empowerment are likely to persist unless deliberate action is taken to ensure a just transition to net zero:[18] there must be targeted investment in tailored green skills for women and girls.

We call on Leaders of the G7 to:

3.8 The pipeline into science, technology, engineering and mathematics

As well as ensuring that girls have access to transformative education, we need to remove barriers to women and girls studying subjects and developing skills that allow them to thrive in academia and in well-paid and growing industries. Women and girls continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies and careers: globally, only 7% of women choose to study engineering, manufacturing, or construction in tertiary education, compared with 22% of men.[19] Beyond the wage gap that comes with women being underrepresented in STEM jobs, the gender gap in STEM is an inefficient allocation of labour and talent, and a missed opportunity for economies around the world.[20]

In the next decade, between 40 and 160 million women globally will need to transition between occupations, often into roles requiring more complex skills.[21] If girls and women are not ready to navigate these transitions successfully, they will lose better-paid work opportunities.[22] The G7 should build on the 2016 G7 Guiding Principles for Building the Capacity of Women and Girls.

We call on Leaders of the G7 to:

3.9 Digital inclusion

More men than women have access to and use the internet in almost all regions of the world, and the digital gender gap is growing – particularly in developing countries.[23] UNICEF reports that 222 million girls globally were left without access to remote learning during COVID-19.[24] In G20 countries, advances in automation and digitisation of industries may disadvantage women, linked to their under-representation in STEM fields and the fact that they may have fewer opportunities to reskill or take advantage of new technologies.[25] If the digital gender gap is not addressed, digital technologies will exacerbate existing gender inequalities, meaning women and girls will continue to be more likely to suffer online harms such as bullying, harassment and gender-based online violence.

In parallel, new forms of decision-making have surfaced numerous examples where algorithms have entrenched or amplified historic biases, or even created new forms of bias or unfairness. These often work to the detriment of women and marginalised groups.[26] The risk is growing as algorithms, and the datasets that feed them, become increasingly complex. Women must be part of building technology to ensure that algorithms are sensitive to the inherent bias that exists when developed by a homogenised group of people. By bringing diverse voices to the table, the development of these algorithms will be better able to ensure women and minorities are not at a computational disadvantage.

We call on Leaders of the G7 to: