On March 8 the Center for American Progress hosted an event with the Just Jobs Network and the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry in recognition of International Women’s Day. The event focused on the challenges women face in entering and participating in the public and private sectors, as well as the positive impact their employment has on countries’ social and economic development.
In her opening remarks, CAP President Neera Tanden said:
We are here today to discuss the challenges confronting women in the workforce. Closing the gender gap in the labor workforce, and in political and corporate leadership, is critical to improve the work-life conditions of all women, and help support diverse and productive economies worldwide.
We know that when women are educated, children are better educated. We know that when women have a chance to work as full and equal partners, economies prosper. And we also know that when women are able to have their voices heard in the political process, democracies are strengthened, and all of our community voices are stronger as well.
Following Tanden’s remarks, Norway’s deputy minister of trade and industry, Rikke Lind, spoke about the progress of women in her country, and what still needs to be done, both in Norway and around the world:
Today, in the present [Norwegian] government, 10 out of 20 ministers are women. More than 60 percent of students in the university are girls. And more than 70 percent of Norwegian women are working.
For Norway, gender equality is more than an objective on its own right. Gender equality has been and still is [an] investment in economic growth.
Norwegian women have made great economic strides but they desire children as well, said Lind. A shared parental leave policy that lasts a full year and state-supported child care help the women of Norway balance work and family life. Nine out of 10 fathers currently participate in 12 weeks of the parental leave, thanks to a government quota. This gives women more options and more opportunities, and is beneficial to the economy.
“International Women’s Day is a day for celebration,” said Lind, “but it’s also a day for reflection of the challenges we confront. And this is my main message to you this morning: No country, not even Norway, has reached full gender equality.”
Lind said that although challenges are different across countries, “the solution in all countries is the same. Countless reports show that gender equality and human rights contribute to any country’s development democratically and economically.”
A panel discussion followed Lind’s speech and was moderated by Sabina Dewan, CAP’s Director of Globalization and International Employment. The panel included Deputy Minister Lind; Amy Dacey, executive director of EMILY’S List; and Maria Peña, senior director of entrepreneurship and economic development at Vital Voices.
When asked why women might not run for political office, Dacey said they need to be asked and encouraged, and that they “need to see more women in office, because they need to see a little bit of themselves in the women that are representing them.”
When asked about women’s barriers to entrepreneurship and corporate jobs, Peña discussed Vital Voices’ work with and the importance of broader networks and more beneficial role models, saying, “Women tend to rely more on their spouses and immediate family for business decisions and business advice relative to men, who have much more diverse networks”—contacts from school, the business community, and society at large.
And women don’t have many role models in business; Peña cited research showing there are staggeringly more male CEOs than female. Other research shows that while women receive more mentoring than men, men advance more successfully from it. Women, however, enjoyed mentorship more.
Overall, the panelists agreed that women need to have a greater presence in the public and private sectors, because gender inequality strains economic and political development.