The Push toward Gender Equality Will Require More Than Money


By Laura Frigenti, Global Head International Development Assistance Services (IDAS), KPMG

This blog is part of a special series marking the launch of the updated
2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)

sigi-jan-19Achieving gender equality is critical to achieving each and every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Though few disagree that gender equality is a facilitator and a catalyst for meeting these ambitious targets, too few emphasise the non-capital inputs required to achieve them. A push for capital remains front-and-center in the conversation, but several other factors must be pursued with equal zeal. Good data, disrupting norms and greater innovation are chief amongst them. Such efforts contribute not only to SDG 5 to “achieve gender equality and empower women and girls,” but also pave the way further for achieving the greater 2030 Agenda.

Gathering alongside gender-lens investors, impact investors and shareholder activists at the December 2018 Financial Times Investing for Good USA event highlighted the challenges and opportunities for accelerating progress toward greater gender equality. Unfortunately, the need remains to put in place effective systems and processes to collect data and measure impact in this critical area. Less than one-quarter of the key gender indicators have adequate tracking information, and only 13% of countries worldwide dedicate a regular budget to collecting and analysing gender statistics. The scarcity of data is a disservice to existing efforts, defying effective planning for the future. To address this gap in data and reporting, KPMG, for example, is a founding partner in Equal Measures 2030, an initiative dedicated to linking data and evidence with planning and actions toward gender equality.

Amongst the data we do have, we see that close to 100 million girls around the world are not in school and that one-third of women will experience gender-based violence in their lives. Achieving gender equality involves challenging these situations. Indeed, access to education, leadership opportunities and greater parity in domestic responsibilities are just a few of the challenges to achieving equality for all. Another blog mentioning the recent release of the updated Social Institutions and Gender Index from the OECD Development Centre discusses how “equal leave – and equal caregiving – strikes most people as completely out of the realm of possibility.” This reality further underscores the imperative to change hearts, minds and norms to first conceive of equality as possible so that we may finally achieve it in practice.

A decade ago, the OECD DAC network reminded us that despite global commitments, gender equality and women’s empowerment are rarely high priorities included in national development plans. The SDGs encourage a recommitment to these priorities, and remind us that they require smarter policies, advocacy and close collaboration with local actors working to combat gender stereotypes and reframe roles at home, at work, in the community and in the political arena. What we know today is that this persistent lack of connections, insights and access to tools and markets limits women and girls globally. The unequal footing perpetuates the disadvantages women and girls must overcome … and greater innovation in these areas can continue to help fuel progress. UN Women’s gender innovation principles, for example, emphasise the importance of applying a gender lens. They focus on involving women as catalytic tools for change, to break trends and to increase access and availability of opportunities. For our part, KPMG partnered with the Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative, or We-Fi, housed at the World Bank. We-Fi’s holistic approach to entrenched challenges helps women in developing countries gain increased access to the financing, markets and networks necessary to propel themselves forward. A leader amongst innovative efforts, KPMG is developing smart digital work for women opportunities intended to enable an ecosystem for greater impact, not just for We-Fi’s efforts but also for the expectations embodied in the SDGs.

The progress we make each day on these worthwhile efforts inspires us, while reminding us what remains to be done for a world that is more free, equitable and prosperous for all.