Women's empowerment is at the heart of this year's G20

The Saudi Presidency of the group wants to maintain momentum gained in recent progress

Saudi Arabia has established a women’s empowerment team to ensure involvement and representation. G20
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For a long time, women’s empowerment has been a priority for the G20, but with Saudi Arabia’s presidency, women’s empowerment is placed at the heart of its agenda.

For example, in 2014, G20 leaders committed to reducing the 25 per cent gender gap in labour participation rates between men and women by 2025. In 2018, leaders created a gender mainstreaming strategy to ensure their empowerment is discussed at all levels.

Building on the efforts and momentum of previous presidencies, Saudi Arabia established a women’s empowerment team to ensure involvement and representation across all G20 workstreams and policymaking bodies. Additionally, with the support of Japan, Italy and Canada, the Saudi G20 Presidency established and currently co-chairs EMPOWER, an alliance promoting women’s access to leadership positions in the private sector. These are not only clear, but also necessary steps towards a more inclusive and global policymaking approach.

There have certainly been improvements in women’s empowerment in the past few years. However, there is a long way to go until we achieve true equality. This should remain our goal, as it will not only benefit the individual lives of women, but most importantly all of society and the economy. Also, let us not forget the lives of men, who for too long have been missing out on unique female perspectives. An example of substantive measures to take would be having more women in leadership positions. This is not to say that male leaders are ineffective, but including women in boardrooms would mean that more informed decisions are being made and that we are represented.

Despite improvements in girls’ education and existing laws against gender discrimination, they still do not have the same access to opportunities as boys do. All inequalities have been exacerbated by Covid-19, including girls’ and women’s unequal access to opportunities. While this is regrettable, it comes as no surprise, as we still lack robust and properly implemented frameworks that secure their inclusion, even in times of global upheaval.

Currently, the ways in which the pandemic is negatively affecting women include job losses and access to education and training opportunities. This not only negatively impacts them, but also the global economy. It has been estimated that elevating their position in the workplace could contribute up to $12 trillion to annual global growth. Under the Saudi Presidency, the G20 is committed to ensuring that the post-pandemic decline in female labour force participation does not become structural. In order to avoid any reversal of the progress we have made, Saudi Arabia continues its support for specific areas of the economy in which women stand to benefit the most. These include the promising sectors of entrepreneurship, global markets and international trade.

And this is only the beginning. Our group continues to investigate other areas we can target to further expand opportunities for them. Across the sectors, we will continue to call for more women to be part of the decision-making process at all levels, including senior ones.

A photo of young and confident Arab businesswoman discussing in a meeting. Emirati woman wearing traditional abaya. Middle Eastern professional female is gesturing towards colleague while sitting in board room meeting.
The UAE has introduced female career mentorship programmes to empower women in financial services. Getty
the G20 will ensure that the post-pandemic decline in female labour force participation does not become structural

Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s presidency has stressed the importance of women’s financial inclusion, access to quality and affordable care services (so the burden of childcare is eased) and access to education and training. These commitments will give them the space and skills to start contributing their valuable inputs, which will be a game-changer for global economic growth.

We are proud to say that our nation has made major progress on the empowerment of women and girls. In January of this year, a World Bank report named Saudi Arabia as the country that has made the greatest progress toward gender equality since 2017. Our success at home proves we have the momentum and drive to do the same on the international stage.

Gender equality can be realised and truly represents the focus of the Saudi G20 Presidency: offering everyone the fullest spectrum of the 21st century’s opportunities. We are proud to see that this is now the case for many, including us, as two Saudi women in leadership roles who are on a mission to support and enable our fellow sisters.

We are now exploring new horizons and bold strategies to improve their status. As women who are at the centre of the G20’s strategy and programmes for women’s and girls’ empowerment, we are confident that our ideas will accelerate efforts across our group’s members and the world. By empowering women, we can empower nations, which is the historic aim of the G20.

Dr Hala Al-Tuwaijiri is the head of the women’s empowerment team at the G20 Saudi Presidency

Rania Nashar is chief executive of Samba Financial Group in Saudi Arabia