Gender Equality in APEC
From APEC HRDWG Wiki
What is Gender Equality and why is it important?
Research indicates that restricting women’s access to educational institutions, employment, and health services comes at a severe economic cost. As the world becomes increasingly flat, and economies become ever more dependent upon one another, it is imperative that women be provided equal access to housing, food, shelter, education, employment, and healthcare in order to promote their development and growth. For example, an economy’s culture may dictate that the proper role for women in the economy is to tend to her children and look after the family, thus prohibiting them from entering the workforce. Another barrier may exist at the state and national levels, in which the economy’s laws may prohibit women from taking upon certain occupations, or even from voting, thus restricting their participation in civic life. Yet other barriers may exist in the private sector, in which women in large organizations may be paid less than men who perform the same task, not promoted to management positions as frequently or as quickly as men, or may have to quit their jobs if the companies do not offer benefits such as maternity leave, child care centers on the premises, or other benefits specifically targeted towards women. In today’s global economy, large transnational organizations hire employees from not only within their economies, but from all over the world. As persons from different cultures come together and interact in the oftentimes unfamiliar environments of their company’s “culture,” a variety of unique situations facing women may arise. Three of these situations are addressed below.
Gender Equality in the Workplace
As stated on APEC2011.gov, “the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum is the premier economic organization in the Asia-Pacific region. Established in 1989 by 12 economies, APEC fosters growth and prosperity by facilitating economic cooperation and expanding trade and investment throughout the region. APEC’s 21 member economies today account for 55 percent of global GDP, purchase 58 percent of U.S. goods exports, and comprise a market of 2.7 billion consumers.” Long-term growth and prosperity, enhanced by economic cooperation and expanded trade and investment, will ultimately depend upon a successful integration of all members of society into the business environment, by providing all members with equal access to land, labor, capital, and the various tools needed to start the micro and small businesses that have for decades been the backbone of so many APEC economies. APEC has long recognized that a successful society can result only from the full participation of women in the economy, and has strived to promote gender equality through such organizations as the Women Leaders Network (WLN) and the Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN). These and other bodies are charged with studying policy and promoting best practices regarding gender equality and making recommendations to APEC Ministers regarding how best to enable full participation of women in the economic and civic life of their societies.
Today, companies around the world compete aggressively to hire the best well-educated and talented personnel that they can. From not only a business, but only a societal point of view, businesses that actively recruit women are the most successful. Research shows that those multinational firms that hire and promote women to management positions are more profitable than those that do not. Women bring important capabilities to the workplace such as teamwork, collaboration, relationship-building, and communication skills. In the past, the metaphorical “glass ceiling” kept women from rising to the highest ranks of business leadership in this male dominated field. Previously, women could not reach the important decision-making positions at these levels. As the glass ceiling shatters, it is an exciting time as women in business obtain leadership roles. At the same time, this change in the gender make-up of upper level staff might cause a bit of discomfort among employees in many parts of the world. Male employees may for the first time answer to women bosses, while women may find themselves in decision-making and managerial roles for the first time. In this regard, it is important to consider the cultural traditions, norms, and practices of the economies in which we conduct business. For example, many economies may have clear rules and dispositions regarding the status of married women. In some societies, women are discouraged from working outside of the home, whereas in others they may be the primary bread winners. In today’s global, multicultural society, old traditions are in constant battle with modern ways of life. Roles and expectations based on one’s gender have shifted and altered the perception of gender roles. How much of the old tradition about gender expectations has changed? How much is retained? What are the underlying effects of these changes on the family, children, and society as a whole? Ultimately, the successful implementation of gender equality, the success of APEC’s mission to promote growth and prosperity, and the long-term success of both companies and economies will depend upon a careful understanding of the intersection of culture, class, tradition; of old and new; of conflict versus harmony; and of a deep appreciation for the customs of individuals and societies as one by one they integrate into and become part of the larger puzzle known as our multicultural world.
How does APEC promote Gender Equality?
- According to EDNET, the goal of the APEC's education activities is to foster strong and vibrant learning systems across APEC member economies, promote education for all, and strengthen the role of education in promoting social, individual, economic and sustainable development.
- In its first Meeting on Gender in 1996 in Manila, Philippines, APEC ministers declared as imperative "to jointly undertake economic and technical cooperation activities that will promote the full participation of men and women in the benefits of economic growth."
- Gender equality it very important to APEC. Indeed, to the extent that any economy subverts women, it effectively subverts “half of its potential workforce and impairs its own ability to realize its full economic potential.”
- According to Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General at the Economic and Social Commission on Asia (ESCAP) , the Asia-Pacific region “loses between $42 and $47 billion dollars a year by restricting women's access to employment. Up to $17 billion dollars a year are lost in the region due to gender gaps in education.”
- During a recent speech to the HRDWG, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stressed that "APEC recognizes that expanding eduational access for girls is not just an urgent economic and social need. In many cases, it is literally a matter of life and death."
- At the 2009 APEC Leader's Meeting in Singapore, the leaders' declared a focus on "enhancing women's access to education, training, financing, technology, and infrastructure, to maximise their economic opportunities," and stated that they welcomed the "continued outreach to women entrepreneurs to grow the positive multiplier effect that women's economic engagement can have on productivity and sustained growth."
The Women Leaders Network (WLN)
The Women Leaders Network (WLN) of APEC was founded in Manila, Philippines in 1996. The WLN considers itself an “informal, dynamic network which brings together women leaders from all sectors, public, private, academia, civil society, indigenous, rural and women in technology, to provide policy recommendations to APEC officials.” The WLN is open to women who are leaders in their field and willing to use their position to influence policies that will help benefit women throughout the Asia-Pacific region, most notably through APEC. The recommendations of the WLN resulted in the first two Ministerial Meetings for Women, the creation of the GFPN (described below), and the recognition of the ‘unique contribution of indigenous women’ to the economy by the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade in 1999. Although the WLN is not an official part of APEC, it has successfully held policy discussions with APEC every year since its foundation in 1996 and has met in Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Brunei, China, Mexico, Thailand, Chile, Korea, Vietnam and Australia. More than 4000 women have been involved in drafting recommendations that have been presented to Ministers Responsible for SMEs, Ministers Responsible for Trade, Ministers Responsible for Women, as well as to the APEC Leaders. At their 2003 meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the WLN made several recommendations to the SME and HRD Ministers under the theme "Women Make a World of Difference: Partnerships for Gender and Development." The WLN stated that particularly women-led micro and small enterprises should be provided fair and equal access to financial resources, that women should be empowered through comprehensive programs and incentives, that care services, in which women are predominant, should be recognized as important for social and economic progress, and that family friendly policies and working conditions must be instituted to enable both women and men to balance families and careers.
The Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN)
The First Ministerial Meeting on Women was held in Makati City, Philippines in 1998. APEC leaders endorsed the recommendations of this meeting, which resulted in the formation of the Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) Ad-Hoc Advisory Group on Gender Integration (AGGI). The AGGI was tasked with the implementation of the “Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC” within APEC groups, and to provide recommendations on gender integration. When the AGGI’s mandate expired in 2002, APEC Ministers endorsed the establishment of the Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN) in order to advance the implementation of the framework and to carry on the mission of the AGGI. The GFPN is comprised of focal points that represent APEC economies and groups. The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the Women Leader's Network (WLN) serve as advisory bodies. Today, the GFPN provides advice on gender policy issues and supports gender equality where relevant to the APEC process. Its major functions include assisting APEC groups identify and address gender issues within their work, collect and share best practices in gender integration among APEC groups, facilitate the provision of gender expert advice, and support the implementation of gender integration across APEC groups and economies. At its 8th meeting in Ranzan, Japan in September 2010, the GFPN recommended strengthening collaboration with the Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) , the Human Resources Development Working Group (HRDWG) among others in order to improve the prospects of women-led micro, small, and medium enterprises in the region. The APEC Women and the Economy Summit, hosted by the GFPN will be held on September 14-17, 2011 in San Francisco, USA.
Gender Equity in Mathematics Education - a report that summarises gender equity in education in terms of its challenge and the approaches recommended to promote women's access to education in math and science.