By Bonnie Chiu
Every year, the world’s top 20 economies representing 85% of the global GDP, come together at the G20 forum. This year’s G20 forum is hosted by Saudi Arabia, and Covid-19 will certainly overshadow the discussions. When considering global economic recovery from Covid-19, a group of businesswomen are proposing that gender must be part of the picture. While gender equality has been the core of G20 agenda since 2015, there seems to be more urgency than ever.
The Business 20 (B20) was set up in 2012, looking to impact public policy through the lens of the private sector. “B20’s role is to recommend policies that will make business community efficient and productive, and this year we have six Taskforces,” says Dr. Ilham Mansour Al-Dakheel, Chair of the B20 Future of Work & Education Taskforce. “For the first time, within the B20, we have a Women in Business Action Council. It goes across all the six Taskforces, and every policy recommendation will be looked at from a gender lens,” continues Mansour Al-Dakheel. While the G20 process also includes the Women 20 (W20) engagement group which explicitly focuses on women’s empowerment, B20 previously did not have a strong focus on women’s empowerment. The B20 Saudi Arabia has made it a goal to change this.
“Since B20 was formed around a decade ago, we have achieved the highest female participation rate at 43% at B20,” says Ms. Diane Wang, Co-Chair of the B20 Digitalization Taskforce, who founded DHGate, the largest B2B-cross-border e-commerce trade platform in China. In comparison, only 7.4% of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs.
Both Mansour Al-Dakheel and Wang argue that Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on gender equality, eroding hard-earned gains in the past few decades. “Before Covid-19, women spend three times as much as men on home responsibilities than men. After Covid-19, women have to be the teachers and home-takers, while also the professionals who make money,” says Mansour Al-Dakheel, who started an educational company Dur Alkuttab, following a strategic alliance between the Higher Education Fund of the Ministry of Education and Mulkia Investment Company in Saudi Arabia. Wang sees similar impact among the entrepreneurs her platform works with: “Covid-19 has had devastating effect on gender equality, especially in gender digital divide. Businesses owned by women are particularly impacted as they have fewer resources in technology products, less access to Internet and lower levels of skill development compared to their male counterparts.”
Their respective Taskforces made many recommendations, from formalisation of informal sectors where a disproportionate number of women work, to tackling the digital skills divide between the countries and genders. Given the imperative of economic recovery, a central theme of both of their Taskforces is the centrality of women in jumpstarting the engine for growth. “Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) are an important part of the engine of growth. We need to ensure that more women are given equal opportunities for funding, and that they are equipped with entrepreneurship skills through training and education,” says Mansour Al-Dakheel, who believes in the untapped potential of women entrepreneurship.
“In 2019, the China State Council released that 55% of Internet entrepreneurs are women – higher than most other countries, including the U.S.,” says Wang. She also mentions more than 45% of companies using her platform are owned by women. “Digitalization can bring opportunities to millions of women and girls, who can contribute to economic growth.”
Originally posted on Forbes