Women Economic Empowerment and Employment


Objectives and related issues

These are of 3 kinds:

1) Advocating for the elimination all types of barriers that prevent women from seizing economic opportunities, have access to decent jobs or keep them in the informal sector. Such barriers notably include:

  • Legislations that prevent women access to property ownership, and in particular land ownership, as well legislations that prevent women inheritance
  • Discrimination in access to credit and other financing instruments
  • Discrimination in access to formal employment, often a double discrimination in the case of migrant women (-> promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility)
  • Discriminatory practices within corporations (pay gap, access to managerial position and boardrooms)
  • Maternity and family responsibilities: need for maternity protection, work-life balance and family friendly work environments (such as part time and flexible time arrangements, home-based offices…) and issue of the consequences such as the pension gap;
  • Unpaid work, notably the unpaid care work mostly performed by women worldwide but also the unpaid production work performed by women in developing country: the time that women spend on unpaid work often prevent them to fully engage in money generating activities: its contribution to the economy should therefore be recognized, and the resulting Pension gap addressed + investment in public infrastructure allowing a reduction of this burden (notably access to water and sanitation) should be key priorities
  • Digital divide: a digital divide not only exist between developed and developing countries, urban and rural areas, but also between men and women. ICTs being a key enabler, policies must ensure that women have access to ICTs and are trained to use them
  • Cultural stereotypes and role models that prevent women to enter higher education and the workforce, as well as taking leadership roles

2) Advocating for economic, social and cultural policies that positively affect the economic empowerment of Women:

  • Policies that promote girl education at the secondary and tertiary level – Advocate for secondary education to be part of post MDGs? (Note: a  Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education, with UNESCO is joining forces with Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, and Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, aims to step up efforts to reduce female drop-out rates in the transition from primary to secondary education and to support women’s literacy programs in Africa and Asia)
    + Girl in Sciences?
  • Policies for fighting extreme poverty
  • Policies that specifically advance gender equality in all economic sectors, gender budgeting
  • Policies that moves Women from the informal sector to more secure Employment situations
  • Policies that specifically support Women entrepreneurship
  • Policies that encourage Women to take leadership positions

3)   Advocating for Gender mainstreaming in all economic and trade policies to notably ensure that

  • Women are not the main victims of economic crisis und subsequent austerity policies
  • Women are not exploited in the process of globalization.



  • Women Economic Empowerment is part of MDG 3, “promote gender equality and empower women” (indicators: 1) Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education, 2) Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector, 3) Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament)
  • Cross cutting issues exist:
    – Education: there cannot be empowerment without appropriate education and training.
    – Women often face double discrimination in seeking employement (Migrant Women, Minority Women, Young Women…)


Key UN entities based or represented in Geneva and areas of work in relation with the TF


Past Activities

The WG has focused on advocacy, technical inputs, organization of open meetings, networking. Some highlights of these activities are the following:

  • 1995 – Organized a joint ILO/NGO workshop in Huairou (parallel with the Fourth World Conference of Women in Beijing) on “Valuing Women’s Employment: Critical Issues for the 21st Century. A report of the proceedings was published.
  • Organized informal panels during the ILO Annual Conferences : Home Work (1996 and 1997), Job Creation in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (1998), Maternity Protection (2000 and 2001) and The Role of Women in the Informal Economy (2002).
  • 2000 – Convener of the caucus and workshops on Women and the Economy during the NGO parallel meetings to the Economic Commission for Europe on Beijing Plus 5.
  • 2000 organized two high level panels during the parallel NGO Forum to the UN General Assembly Special Session on Social Development in Geneva as a follow up to the Copenhagen Social Summit of 1995: one panel was on Economic Development and Social Responsiblity; the other on Intellectual Property Rights and Electronic Commerce.
  • Organized panels within the umbrella of the Committee during the Commission on Human Rights: on Ageing and Gender; on the Role of the Media; on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; etc.
  • Organized presentations by eminent personalities from the private sector, specialists from UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UNCTAD, ILO, World Bank, WIPO, etc. on employment of women and mainstreaming gender equality perspectives.
  • The WG Convener (IFUW 1995-2001 and 2007-2011), (Zonta 2001-2007) have delivered statements at ILO Annual Conferences and have intervened in UN meetings notably in general sessions of the Economic, Social and Cultural Committee.
  • 2009 jointly with the Committee on the Status of Women an ECE NGO preparatory meeting in conjunction with the ECE Beijing + 15, an outcome document with recommendations was published herewith.



I salute the presence in Geneva of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, and its advocacy work for gender equality and the advancement of the status of women and their empowerment in decision-making. I especially appreciate the Committee’s valuable inputs to ILO efforts aimed at decent work for women, as equal partners of men.

The Committee has played a unique role in giving a voice to unorganized women who are concentrated in low-paid and low status jobs, and whose non-remunerated work is economically unrecognized and undervalued. I wish to express our appreciation of the work of the Committee, and in particular of its Working Group on Women’s Employment and Economic Development, as one of the ILO’s valued partners in this area.

The ILO also appreciates the Committee’s contributions to helping advance the mainstreaming of gender and gender equality in the ILO, by its active presence in our meetings and other advisory activities. The Committee’s concerns are as much ours, and we count on it for helping to continue our common endeavour for social justice, economic development and gender equality.

Juan Somavia, Director General, International Labour Organization


See also the corresponding activities blog (that also includes activities of the former working Group on Employment and the Economics of Gender)