This week, Pittsburgh is home to the G-20, where world leaders are meeting to discuss how to repair the global economy. While they create a plan to end the current economic crisis, it is critical that any plan includes women and girls.
Women make up to 60 percent of the global workforce, yet they are also the majority of the world’s poor and illiterate. During a recession, women are disproportionately impacted because they are more likely to be in vulnerable jobs, underemployed, and have less financial control over financial resources. Even women in senior positions at large corporations are being adversely affected – while 6 percent of men in senior positions have lost their jobs during this recession, 19 percent of women have.
The city of Pittsburgh is a great example of both the inequality women face (especially in a recession) as well as the positive responses that are possible. While Pittsburgh has been called a symbol of economic recovery, it also has one of the worst gender wage gaps in the county. In Pittsburgh, women earn less than 70 cents on the dollar than men, while the national average is 81 cents for every dollar. However, Pittsburgh has also recognized this problem and is working to remedy it through economic development.
Recently city leaders collaborated with the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania to mandate that local governmental entities regularly conduct race and gender wage gap audits and immediately begin systemic improvements to eliminate wage inequities for government workers. In addition, a coalition of corporate leaders has joined forces with the Women and Girls Foundation to increase women's representation on corporate boards. In three years, their efforts have reduced the number of companies with zero women on the board from 26 down to 16.
While the G20 leaders discuss ways to bring the world out of this economic crisis, they need to remember to consider the entire population, not just one gender. Investments in physical infrastructure, while important, need to be paired with social infrastructure and investments in education and public health.