The theme of International Women’s Day 2019 on March 9 is Balance for Better. But gender balance isn’t a women’s issue; it’s an issue for businesses, for organisations, for governments. Because the evidence is clear: financial empowerment for women benefits all of us. It helps economies grow and communities thrive.
Yet it seems we’re struggling to catch on. According to United Nations Women, there are 2.7 billion women globally who are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. In fact, of 189 economies the organisation examined in 2018:
- 104 still have laws barring women from specific jobs;
- 59 have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace;
- 18 allow husbands to legally prevent their wives from working.
- And let’s not forget the global gender pay gap, which means women earn 77 per cent of the wage paid to a bloke for equivalent work.
Thankfully, there are some countries working to balance the scales. They’re ones that have recognised the social and economic benefits of improving employment opportunities and conditions for women, and have taken the steps to make it happen.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Women in Work Index assessed the welfare and representation of women in the workplace across 33 OECD countries. Based on its analysis of factors, including equality of earnings, access employment opportunities and job security, it found that these are the five best places to be a working woman…
Gender pay gap: 15.4 per cent
Female boardroom representation: 43 per cent
Percentage of the female working-age population in full or part-time employment: 85 (Men: 91)
On 24 October 1975, the women of Iceland went on strike. They refused to show up for work, to cook, clean or cater to their children, in a nationwide call for equal pay and equal respect. In 2018, that legacy became law when Iceland passed legislation that will see any public or private body (employing more than 25 people) fined each day that it fails to pay equal wages for equal work.
Combine that with first-class daycare and parental leave programs, and it’s little wonder that more than four in five working age women in the Nordic country are employed. (By ‘first-class parental leave’ we mean NINE months – three for each parent, and another three to be divided as the couple sees fit.)
Gender pay gap: 12.8 per cent
Female boardroom representation: 38 per cent
Percentage of the female working-age population in full or part-time employment: 76 (Men: 78)
Sweden continues its reign as the equal-opportunities capital of the world. In fact, if other OECD countries could match the Scandinavian nation’s female employment rates, it could boost GDP by over USD$6 trillion.
Echoing the close-to-equal workforce participation is Sweden’s parliament, which is made up of 46 per cent female MPs.
3. NEW ZEALAND
Gender pay gap: 7.2 per cent
Female boardroom representation: 30 per cent
Percentage of the female working-age population in full or part-time employment: 73 (Men: 84)
In case having Jacinda Ardern as PM didn’t make us jealous enough… According to PwC’s report, since the year 2000 New Zealand has maintained one of the narrowest gender pay gaps in the OECD. While the average across the 33 nations stands at 15 per cent, the tiny country has remained in the single digits.