International Women's Day, for the
Closing the Gender Gap
In honor of International Women's Day, which is today, the Center for American Progress (CAP) held a panel discussion among four distinguished leaders focused on gender and the world of work: Rikke Lind, Norwegian Deputy Minister from the Ministry of Trade and Industry; Amy Dacey, Executive Director of EMILY's List; and Maria PeÃ±a, Senior Director of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, Vital Voices; and moderator Sabina Dewan, Director of Globalization and International Employment, also at CAP.
The event was introduced by Neera Tanden, President of CAP.
Even today, the list of underused resources around the world is extensive--some beneficial and others best left where they are. But most will agree that a fairer representation of the fair sex in the workforce will contribute greatly to our culture and quality of life.
Significantly, the audience today consisted largely of women, and the panel were all women. There is much work to be done, said Tanden, before workplaces reflect the actual proportion of men and women in the world.
Although 40 percent of American women are wage earners, a tiny 18 percent are in top leadership positions. Addressing issues relevant to childcare and family leave will go a long way toward balancing this proportion also.
Her opening remarks were followed by a Powerpoint presentation by Rikke Lind, who said that Clara Zetkin, a German Marxist, activist, and champion of women's rights, first organized this day to honor women in 1911. She would be amazed at the progress women have made since then, never without a fight.
Norway's first and only woman prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, held office between 1981 and 1996; women also comprised eight out of her eighteen ministers, which Lind called a most women-dominated government.
Today in Norway 70 percent of women work and 60 percent of university students are women; the welfare state is growing, and the other half of the population must be allowed to achieve to their fullest capabilities. Warren Buffett said that he had an easier time succeeding because he was competing against only half of the population.
In Norway also there has been yearlong family leave for ten years; men are allowed twelve weeks; the result has been more productivity, growth, and equality at a cost of 3 percent of the GDP, money well spent.
With such a superb rate of women working, the fertility rate has also increased sharply. But the fight continues, said Lind. There is no country in the world with true gender equality. The glass ceiling remains.
In France, 30 percent of high-level government positions are reserved for women by Parlement, a quota system that works well.
But in Norway gender wage gaps persist; most women give birth to two to three children, and 30 percent of all businesses are run by women entrepreneurs, a number that should increase.
International Women's Day celebrates human rights and the need for progress, a correct balance between raising children and getting the right job.