ILO: Greater gender equality in politics is good news for the world of work

ILO’s gender policy specialist welcomes recent achievements on gender equality in politics but says more needs to be done including in the world of work.

“We take another step towards globalizing social progress when we champion gender equality as a matter of rights and social justice, as well as efficiency and good business sense”Juan Somavía, ILO Director-General

GENEVA (ILO News) – The Director of the ILO Bureau of Gender Equality says that progress that has been made lately in several countries to promote more women to top political positions is “good news for the world of work.”

“More women in politics also means that gender equality is seeping down in the minds of voters,” says Ms. Jane Hodges, commenting on recent developments which lead to the appointment or the election of women at high-level political positions in several countries.

These developments include – among others – gender parity now effective in the French Government and the appointment of the first woman as Chairperson of the African Union Commission. “Western countries are not necessarily ahead in promoting gender equality at the political level,” adds Ms. Hodges, noting that the Central African country of Rwanda actually reached women-men parity in Parliament as early as 2003. Africa now counts two female Heads of State in Liberia and Malawi.

However, even when women hold high level political posts, they can still be treated unfairly. For instance, they usually face more scrutiny than men on the way they perform, including on details such as the way they dress.

The world of work can do better

Also, more efforts can still be done to improve gender equality including in the world of work.

Ms. Hodges especially mentions the main findings of a study entitled Gender balance in the lnternational Labour Conference that has just been released on the representation of women and men in the International Labour Conference (ILC), the annual gathering of more than 3,000 delegates from governments, workers and employers.

Statistics collected between 2006 and 2012 show that the number of women participants at the ILC actually decreased to 26.9 per cent in 2012 compared to 28.5 per cent in 2009.

The study also looks at government ministers addressing the ILC plenary. It shows that only 24.8 per cent of speakers among ministers were women, compared to 29.3 per cent the year before. Based on a gender deficit that is problematic for all its constituents, the ILO decided to start identifying good practice initiatives from governments which had at least 50 per cent or more of women in their delegations. They will be shared with others to try and curb the current trend.

“Elections or appointments of women, whether it is in business or politics usually get significant media coverage. So greater gender equality in this field sends a very strong signal to the whole community. Any step forward does help us to promote decent work and empower women at all levels,” concludes Ms. Hodges.

Gender equality and social dialogue are both fundamental values and cross-cutting issues for the International Labour Organisation.

Participation of women and men in social dialogue

Comparative studies confirm that women are persistently under-represented at all levels of social dialogue. This is one of the direct consequences of the under-representation of women within government units, trade unions and employers’ organisations.

Gender equality issues on the agenda of social dialogue and collective bargaining

Tripartite social dialogue and collective bargaining are essential policy tools to advance gender equality in the world of work. However, meaningful discussions and initiatives on gender equality issues are still scarce in national social dialogue councils, as well as in collective agreements at sectoral and entreprise levels.

The promotion of gender equality and social dialogue is inextricably linked and mutually beneficial. The ILO technical assistance and comparative research aim at sharing best practices to provide guidance for developing new policy initiatives and innovative mechanisms for implementation.

Angelika Muller is the Gender Coordinator for the Social Dialogue Sector.

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