The Women’s 20: Shaping the Women’s Economic Empowerment Agenda

German Chancellor Merkel after receiving the W20 Communique

German Chancellor Merkel after receiving the W20 Communique

The G20 countries, comprised of the 19 largest economies in the world plus the European Union, held their Women’s 20 (W20) Summit in Berlin, Germany, from April 25-27, 2017. German Chancellor Angela Merkel used her 2017 G20 presidency to put the cause of women’s economic empowerment in a prominent place on the global economic agenda: she attended the event on three occasions, to dialogue with the high-profile W20 delegates about policy recommendations.

Delegates from each country developed policy recommendations through an intensive online process that took place during March and most of April. The most important recommendations were consolidated into a one-page Communique that was presented to Chancellor Merkel on April 27. The Communique was then passed on to a Sherpa for each country. Collectively, the Sherpas are responsible for incorporating recommendations from all the engagement groups – Women, Business, Labor, Civil Society, Think Tanks, Youth and Interfaith – into a larger draft Communique that will be considered, modified and adopted by the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the G20 countries at the Leaders Summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 7-8, 2017. Recommendations adopted in the Leaders Communique are to be implemented by all G20 countries.

In addition to the Communique, a 12-point W20 Implementation Plan was developed. Each of the 12 points in the plan includes recommended measures, a monitoring dashboard, as well as supporting reports, studies and leading practices. Individual countries are free to decide which issues in the Plan they want to focus on.

Though assessing the success of the W20 Summit in Berlin will be an ongoing process based on results, the strategic agenda laid out is highly encouraging. Both Jennifer Bisceglie and Virginia Littlejohn of Quantum Leaps were heavily involved as leaders of two of the four W20 working groups.

Jennifer Bisceglie (right) talking with Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF

Jennifer Bisceglie (right) talking with Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF

Ms. Bisceglie, Quantum’s CEO, co-chaired the Strengthening the W20 working group, while Ms. Littlejohn, Quantum’s Co-Founder and President for Innovation and Strategic Initiatives, was chair of Digital Inclusion. The two also worked hand in glove with leadership of the German Association of Women Entrepreneurs (VdU), one of the two co-chairs of the Summit, on developing women entrepreneurial policy recommendations. Along with the two German co-chairs of the Summit and several other working group chairs, Bisceglie and Littlejohn also served on the coordinating committee that collectively honed what ultimately became the W20 Communique and Implementation Plan.

The entire W20 12-point Implementation Plan for women’s economic empowerment is important, but some of the specific initiatives are at the core of Quantum’s advocacy action agenda:

Systematically Integrating Gender Analysis and Gender Budgeting

“The W20 calls on the G20 member states to systematically integrate gender analysis and gender budgeting into all its agenda, growth strategy and policy frameworks. This must include improving gender-disaggregated data collection for evidence-based policymaking and progress monitoring. It also requires the adoption of, and agreement on, essential indicators that can assess progress in achieving gender equality both within the G20 and internationally.”

Supporting Women Entrepreneurs and Female Cooperatives

“The W20 recommends that the G20 supports women entrepreneurs and female cooperatives to start up and scale their operations, build capacity, ensure their equal access to finance and markets, and accord them their fair share in global value chains. Entrepreneurship is vital for resilient growth and vibrant societies. Entrepreneurs enhance employment and productivity while creating high quality innovations. Increasing the huge untapped potential of female entrepreneurship would significantly contribute towards achieving the G20’s growth goals.” 

Bridging the Digital Gender Divide

“The W20 calls on the G20 to swiftly bridge the widening digital gender divide and take inspiration from the ‘Women’s Initiative in Developing STEM Career (WINDS)’ by setting up a comprehensive 5-year plan for gender-equal digital transformation, thereby partnering with ‘EQUALS’, an initiative implemented by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the GSM Association (GSMA) and UN Women. Information and communication technologies (ICT) have been identified as a key driver for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and as the core enabling innovation area of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, they are tools through which gender equality and women’s economic and social empowerment can be advanced. An increased investment in access to ICT and technical, vocational education skills and training (TVET) for girls and women is necessary to counteract potential job losses from “digitalization” of the economy, which may disproportionately affect women.”

Other critical issues from the 12-point Implementation Plan that we provided strategic input on include “Granting Full Property Rights, Legal Capacity and Right to Self-Determination for Women and Girls” and “Providing Full Access on Equal Terms to Productive and Financial Resources for Women.”

Virginia Littlejohn (fourth from left) talking with Germany's Sherpa, Mr.   Röller

Virginia Littlejohn (fourth from left) talking with Germany's Sherpa, Mr. Röller

Quantum Leaps’ leaders were honored to have had a hand in developing these policy recommendations, and will be continuing to focus on implementing them between now and the next W20 in Argentina during 2018.

While substantive results must be achieved for the German W20 to be considered a resounding success, there are encouraging signs that women’s economic issues will be more central to G20 decision makers under Chancellor Merkel’s leadership than at earlier stages of the W20’s development.

Arancha González, Executive Director of the Geneva-based International Trade Centre – with which Quantum Leaps partners on women’s access to markets – wrote a recent piece for the Huffington Post which addressed this point very well:

Can the G20 Put Women at the Centre of the Global Economy?

“…Countries need to cooperate to keep things from going awry. The Group of 20 (G20) plays a critical role in international policy coordination: it serves as a forum for leading economies to set shared goals. Germany’s G20 priorities under Chancellor Angela Merkel have expressly included the economic empowerment of women with…all G20 members agree(ing) that economic discrimination against women is a major constraint on growth. The true measure of success will be whether G20 leaders first adopt ambitious commitments on gender equality at their summit in Hamburg this July and then go on to deliver on those commitments.”

To ensure that commitments to these recommendations are adopted and implemented, W20 delegates and national organizations in each G20 country focused on women’s economic empowerment need to advocate with their national Sherpa to ensure support for implementation of these recommendations. Please contact the G20 directly for contact information on your Sherpa, if you are from a G20 country.

G20 members include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

Sucharita Eashwar of India, Virginia Littlejohn and Jennifer Bisceglie immediately before presenting recommendations from their three W20 working groups -- Finance, Digital Inclusion, and Strengthening the W20

Sucharita Eashwar of India, Virginia Littlejohn and Jennifer Bisceglie immediately before presenting recommendations from their three W20 working groups -- Finance, Digital Inclusion, and Strengthening the W20

Quantum Leaps will be helping to lead the charge in areas that impact women’s entrepreneurship in the United States, and globally. We hope the W20 platform can eventually contribute to broad buy-in internationally, including among countries that are not members of the G20.