Gender equality: Let’s bring the men to the table

W20 Representative for Australia


Women 20 (W20) was launched by the G20 in 2015 as a step forward for gender equality. Including men in the challenge could make a telling difference in 2017.

What we have seen in 2016 may have been unimaginable to some but, undoubtedly, it is all part of a global recalibration. A new president for the US; a new, female, prime minister in the UK following Brexit; and many more political, social and economic shifts, amid deepening concerns about global inequality, conflict and climate change. It is quite a list!

But even if the world seems to some to be, as one Financial Times columnist described it, “lurching towards the extremities,” the stage is also set for a year of opportunity in 2017. Looking ahead to the third Women20 (W20) Summit, in Berlin in April 2017, I feel at once both privileged and restless about our opportunities. Privileged, as Australia’s representative, to build on the great work done by the Brisbane G20 Summit in 2014, which made history by including a specific target to reduce the gender participation gap in G20 economies by 25% by 2025 (see references).

Keep in mind that the G20 is an economic forum and, as my Australian colleague, Susan Harris Rimmer, has argued, it will look decidedly old fashioned if the 2017 German presidency does not take “womenomics” just as seriously by further unlocking the potential of women as drivers of inclusive growth.

I don’t think we need to convince anyone anymore that economies which invest in equality of opportunity–and diversity–will see huge and sustainable growth across all business segments. In fact, according to much quoted McKinsey report, simply giving more women the same opportunities as men would add $12 trillion extra to global growth by 2025.*

Clearly, we must, at the 2017 W20 summit in April, put the numbers on the table, show the results of quantifiable measurements and reveal the successes and failures or, more importantly, the underlying trend to highlight the direction in which we are heading. The trend will surely signal our own recalibration.

Which brings me to why I’m restless: what about the men?

The W20 is a progressive initiative, which has the capacity to break new ground where the United Nations, or the World Economic Forum, or even ASEAN cannot. We are here to push for the economic empowerment of women in the G20 economies and throughout the world.

There is co-operation with other organisations like the UN and we have strong support from Chancellor Angela Merkel, of course, as chair of the G20 in 2017. True to the charter of the W20, Germany is inviting business women to organise the event, and the National Council of German Women’s Organisations and the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs will be our hosts at the April summit.

The trouble is, our summit will be overwhelmingly made up of women, talking to other women of the world. In my view, we at the W20 are not going to realise our full potential unless we involve men in our conversations and engagement. How can we possibly make progress if we don’t have a diverse and relevant representation?

This bout of restlessness was triggered while on a panel with six women, at the annual OECD Forum in Paris in June 2016, at which we discussed the G20 goal to reduce the gap between male and female workplace participation by 25% by 2025. It was encouraging to see the OECD so committed to this very important target, and raising awareness that it must be measured. However, I often thank, in my mind, the man in the audience who rose to his feet and asked why there was no man on the panel.

The light switched on! It is so obvious that men need to be included, not excluded, when it comes to economic progress. We talk about diversity, collaboration, and co-operation, but these are all hollow words unless we walk our talk to achieve our goals. Without involving men, we’ll become trapped in our own ever-diminishing circle of influence, nodding in furious agreement but frustrated by not making faster progress. By recalibrating, we can achieve more.

There is plenty to work with as we advance the agenda for 2017. The previous two W20 summits called on G20 Leaders to:

  • support entrepreneurship and launch programmes specifically to help women;
  • improve women’s access to credit, training, information services and technical support;
  • put in place measures for governments and big business to include more women as suppliers;
  • and most importantly, set targets and report on progress in all areas.

Let’s bring the men to the table and hold them accountable as well to these goals and more. After all, 17 of the 20 leaders of the G20 in Brisbane in 2014, all of whom agreed to the 2025 target, were men.

If we can recalibrate in 2017, we will make even more progress at our summit in Germany and that, too, will ease my restlessness.

Links and references

See Anne Fulwood's bio at Ogilvy Public Relations  

Clarke, R (2014), “Forging a gender-balanced economy” in OECD Observer No 300 (G20 Brisbane edition), Q3, see

McKinsey (2015), “How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth”, available at

©OECD Observer No 308 Q4 2016

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.4% Nov 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.6% Nov 2017
Last update: 16 Jan 2018


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018