But they remain the exception rather than the norm. Unfortunately, most women are disenfranchised not by choice but because of prevailing structures. They struggle to support their families, face barriers to education and are hindered from taking up leadership roles in society.
A recent study shows that 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from choosing the same jobs as men. There is still a substantial pay gap, which is compounded by the fact that women also shoulder a disproportionate share of unpaid domestic and care work. While women are moving into managerial roles, the transition into senior management and the boardroom remains sluggish – even though research has repeatedly shown that companies with more women in senior leadership perform better.
In our world under the constant threat of climate change, it is women and girls who bear the heaviest burden and recover the slowest. Nearly 80 percent of those displaced due to climate change are women. A closer look at the evidence shows that women who are left behind in affected areas are more likely to experience poverty, loss of livelihoods and health problems. These are worrying trends that should not be ignored in disaster response and recovery.
At the same time, a combination of weak global growth, stubborn inflation and rising debt poses a fatal risk, fueling poverty and limiting public investment in human capital, disproportionately affecting women. Such disruptions are worrying signs that the gains made so far, as well as much needed progress, are in serious jeopardy. In fact, at the current pace, the goal of gender equality is 300 years away.
It is in this context that I convened a meeting of Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers in the Bahamas last week. Our goal was to assess the current state of gender equality in the 56 Commonwealth countries and share vision to accelerate progress on this shared priority.