Commission on the Status of Women
23 December 1994
COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
New York, 15 March-4 April 1995
Item 6 (a) of the provisional agenda*
PRIORITY THEMES: EQUALITY
Equality in economic decision-making
Report of the Secretary-General
The Commission on the Status of Women, at its thirty-fourth session,
selected the issue "Equality in economic decision-making" as the priority
theme under the rubric of "Equality" for consideration at its thirty-ninth
session. Economic decisions, made by either private or public actors,
determine both present and future economic performance and structures with
obvious implications for everyone's daily life. Equal participation in the
shaping of economic decisions implies that women will be integral parts of the
processes and institutions involved in defining economic decisions and
exercising economic power. Over the past 20 years the proportion and the rate
of growth of economically active women have increased almost everywhere and in
all sectors. Women are entering the third level of education, nearly closing
the gap between men and women and diversifying their fields of study. Despite
these trends, in the most visible way and regardless of the level of
development or the economic, political and social systems, women are still
largely absent from economic decision-making positions at the national and
international levels. Furthermore, the issue of women's access to economic
decision-making has been largely undebated. The linkages between the spheres
of intervention and influence need to be stressed.
Based on an expert group meeting organized by the Division for the
Advancement of Women, the present report seeks to present the main
opportunities and constraints specifically faced by women and to suggest
strategic actions to be taken in order to increase and improve their
participation in economic decision-making bodies and processes.
INTRODUCTION ................................................ 1 - 4 3
FACTUAL BASIS AND MAIN ISSUES ............................... 5 - 30 4
A. Need for more women economic decision makers ....... 5 - 7 4
B. Incidence of women in economic decision-making ..... 8 - 9 4
C. Career paths for women in corporate structures ..... 10 - 22 5
D. Women entrepreneurs ................................ 23 - 30 7
Annex. Report of the expert group meeting on women and economic
decision-making ............................................... 9
1. The Economic and Social Council established, by its resolution 1990/15,
the priority themes for each session of the Commission on the Status of Women
from 1993 to 1996. The theme for the thirty-ninth session under the objective
of "Equality" is "Equality in economic decision-making". This theme was
suggested by the recommendations and conclusions arising from the first review
and appraisal of the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies
for the Advancement of Women 1/ to the year 2000, contained in the annex to
Council resolution 1990/15. The Council stated that the participation of
women in the economy continued to be unequal, characterized by job
segregation, insufficient training opportunities, unequal pay for work of
equal value, inadequate career prospects and lack of full participation in
economic decision-making. Recommendation IV, flowing from those conclusions,
"The United Nations should study the incidence of women in economic
decision-making world wide, analyse innovative national programmes to
increase the proportion of women in economic decision-making positions
and publicize the results, within existing resources."
2. In its resolution 48/108, the General Assembly called upon Member States
to give priority to issues relating to the role of women in economic decision-
making. In its resolution 35/4, the Commission on the Status of Women also
decided to address that theme as one of the critical areas of concern for the
advancement of women, world wide.
3. In conformity with the recommendation of the Economic and Social Council
in its resolution 1987/24, an expert group meeting on women and economic
decision-making was convened in New York from 7 to 11 November 1994 to help
prepare the theme paper. The meeting was attended by 16 experts from all
regions, 7 observers from organizations of the United Nations system and 3
observers from non-governmental organizations. The meeting sought to define
strategic actions to be taken in order to increase and improve the
participation of women in economic decision-making bodies and processes. The
experts considered the rationality for expanding women's impact on strategic
economic decisions. The actual situation and trends were assessed for all the
regions; the main leading or impeding factors related to these trends were
analysed, and recommendations were made under the headings of leadership and
management roles, transforming enterprise and financial systems, and women
organizing for visibility and change.
4. The conclusions and recommendations suggested by the experts 2/ are
presented as an annex to the present report. The other parts of the report
are based on the background papers drafted by the Division for the Advancement
of Women in preparing the Expert Group Meeting. 3/
FACTUAL BASIS AND MAIN ISSUES
A. Need for more women economic decision makers
5. There are many reasons for favouring the full and equal incorporation of
women in economic decision-making. First, it is a matter of good economics
and human resource management. Impeding women's achievement of their full
potential is a waste of scarce skilled human resources, especially in
developing countries. In developed countries there is a trend towards the
reduction of the global supply of workers with third-level education because
of demographic trends. Some countries have already made estimates of the
future shortage of managers that they will face in the near future. Women
could fill this gap. Moreover, because of their gender roles, women develop
skills that are particularly appropriate for modern management. Increasing
competition between enterprises has led to new styles of management based on
adaptability and full use of all available resources. Women's ability to
cooperative leadership, emphasis on quality, intuitive problem-solving and
light control are actually highly valued by the new management culture,
particularly in large private corporations.
6. Secondly, it is widely recognized that women's subordinated status and
discrimination are linked and explained in considerable measure by women's
very low share of economic and political power at all levels. Moreover,
exclusion from policy-making and decision-making has made it difficult for
women and women's organizations to include their preferences and interests in
the largely male-dominated formal economic world. If development decisions
and results are to become more accountable to women and responsive to their
needs, there may be no short cut to women's full involvement in top economic
7. Thirdly, women have equal rights with men to such participation. The
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
which brings women into the focus of human rights concerns, spells out in 14
articles the right of women to full participation in public and private life
and the necessary conditions for the enjoyment of that right.
B. Incidence of women in economic decision-making
8. Economic decision makers include persons occupying a wide variety of
positions whose decisions can determine the direction of economic policy in
the short and long terms. They include top executives of national public
bodies dealing with economic matters; senior managers of public and private
enterprises at national and international levels; entrepreneurs at various
levels; senior managers of international and regional financial institutions;
and members of boards of trade unions and professional and business
9. The review of the national case studies presented by the experts
demonstrated, as already suggested by several other sources, that systematic
investigation and documentation on this issue is relatively new, scanty, often
country-specific and widely dispersed. However, a general conclusion from all
of the studies is that women are underrepresented everywhere in places where
male privileges tend to become institutionalized - in the boardrooms,
cabinets, business organizations, trade union headquarters and the executive
suites of transnational corporations.
C. Career paths for women in corporate structures
10. Four general considerations regarding women managers need attention. In
the first instance, it must be recognized that while the term "management" in
abstraction may not be intrinsically biased, it is a bearer of discrimination
against women in its institutional structure, organizational and behavioural
norms, rules and regulations. Qualities such as aggressiveness, "hard-nosed"
determination, competitiveness and drive, normally associated with
"masculinity" are often the expected attributes of managers. This tends to
render "management" male-biased in its recruitment, promotion procedures,
management leadership, style and outcomes.
11. Secondly, a relatively high number of women may be gaining entry into
management positions in general, but it is rarely at the top management
levels. The quest for women's participation in management cannot be left
simply at any level; it has to be pursued at all levels, and especially at the
strategic top levels.
12. Thirdly, it is important to recognize the differences in the nature of
responsibilities, authority and expectations which distinguish public- from
the private-sector management. Public-sector management bears an additional
requirement of wider social responsibilities. Furthermore, in many countries
the public sector tends to be the major employer of women. It may therefore
seem obvious that women's participation in management may be enhanced in the
public sector and thus be a role model for the private sector.
13. Finally, a statistically guided profile of women in management may offer
a useful general picture. In a more substantive way, however, until now all
available information has contained serious distortions in qualitative and
quantitative terms. Quantitative distortions occur due to the lack of
standardized and universalized working definitions, classifications and
categorization of management jobs. Qualitative distortions are caused by
discriminatory features which are known to characterize women managers'
careers even when they do gain upward mobility in management. For instance,
top professional women do not benefit from all the advantages their male
colleagues enjoy. Women tend to occupy a "second class" status, especially in
highly paid and prestigious professions and areas of activity.
14. The available documented evidence suggests that, despite regional and
sectoral variations, there is a slow rate of increase in the proportion of
women managers relative to men. The increase has been linked to more women
acceding to the third level of education, the growing entry of women into the
labour market and their longer presence in it. However, it has also been
noted that most of the actual pool of women managers is concentrated in very
few sectors of activity, managing almost specific and peripheral-supportive
functions, such as personnel and external relations, and stagnates at the
lower and middle levels of management. Women managers also tend to be more
present in the public sector than in the private sector.
15. Furthermore, it has also been noted that there is a huge gap between, on
the one hand, the rates of participation and the increase of economically
active women in the formal economy and, on the other, women in top management.
Because of education and employment trends, it is suggested optimistically
that the pool from which the next generation of managers is drawn will contain
as many women as men. However, this will effectively lead to a greater access
to top levels of management only if the structural barriers that impede the
access of women managers (lower and middle level) to decisive positions can be
16. Why are women so grossly underrepresented, so wastefully underutilized
and so skewed in their distribution among the levels and sectors of
management? Why there is such a large gap between the levels of women's
participation in formal employment and in management positions? If women are
availing themselves of employment opportunities, why is their rise to top
management so slow? The explanations offered for this world-wide phenomena
vary and have evolved in stages.
17. They operate in four stages, and passage through each stage is necessary
for mobility upwards to the highest level of management.
18. The early gender-based socialization of girls and boys produces sex-role-
differentiation which reinforces the existing division of labour between women
and men. It then becomes "natural" for girls not to be educated or trained.
If education or training is available for girls, it will be in areas such as
domesticity and housekeeping, while boys will be trained in technical and
commercial skills. Career choices are then guided by stereotyped ideas of
19. Third-level education and training are the most important stages in the
preparation of women for a professional career. Even if, in many countries,
women equal and sometimes outnumber men at the third level of education, in
all countries, there is still a clear distinction between the fields of study
of women and men. Women tend to choose areas such as the arts, education and
other social fields, while men tend to concentrate in technical, commercial
and managerial areas. In most cases, the factors that are impeding women's
access to the third level of education are determined by attitudinal factors
and linked to traditions and culture. A woman's choice of a field of study is
affected by the basic attitudes and values of women and by the education
system, which does not prepare women for leadership positions. The content of
education, career guidance and counselling, which all tend to channel girls
into traditional female fields, are suggested as the main mechanisms.
20. When women become educated and can gain access to entry-level jobs, they
tend to remain clustered and compressed in the lower ranks and concentrated in
women-dominated public bureaucracies and management organizations.
Prejudices, of both women and men, about social roles, capabilities and
behaviour become entrenched in employment recruitment policies and procedures,
terms and conditions of employment. Women's choices tend also to be
determined by their reproductive roles, limiting their access to potential
21. Obstacles to a woman's entry into a potential management career may be
addressed through appropriate education and training programmes. However,
once in a potential management post, women are confronted with even harder,
more subtle and diffused barriers which restrict their upward mobility. These
factors are structural, such as employment rules, regulations and performance
evaluation, and behavioural, such as exclusion from networks and training and
lack of opportunities to travel and attend meetings. Both factors form the
male corporate culture referred also as the "glass ceiling", an invisible but
impassable barrier that prevents women from reaching top management,
regardless of their education and experience.
22. Many of the barriers identified above continue to hound those very few
women who do make it to the top. Faced with male-biased expectations,
isolation and loneliness they have the choice of being either an "incompetent"
woman manager or a pseudo-male superstar.
D. Women entrepreneurs
23. In most countries, women are beginning to emerge as entrepreneurs. Women
entrepreneurs are making an increasingly important contribution to the total
of new business start-ups and entering a wider range of business fields.
Statistical data of the International Labour Office (ILO) on the category
"employers and own account workers" describe those who could be entrepreneurs.
Historically, men have been more likely to be economically independent than
women. But, data also show that over the past 20 years, the gap between men
and women has been narrowing, passing from 26 women for every 100 men in 1970
to 40/100 in 1990. 2/
24. A number of factors have facilitated the increase in women entrepreneurs.
Access to education and training and a growing service sector are suggested as
the leading factors. However, others such as female long-term unemployment in
many developed countries and lack of perceived prospects for career
advancement for women professionals blocked by the "glass ceiling" are also
25. Enterprises established by women face specific obstacles which, in large
measure, derive from women's unequal status in society. Although women are
entering business at a rapid rate, the majority of the women-owned businesses
are new and operate in a precarious state.
26. Women entrepreneurs cite unavailability of capital as the biggest barrier
to growth. Past discrimination, inheritance laws and practices, and property
rights explain in most cases the lack of collateral available to most women.
Moreover, lack of information, inexperience in negotiating and in many cases
the small size of women-owned businesses create considerable barriers between
most financial institutions and women. Finally, in some countries, banking
laws and procedures have not been modified to remove discriminatory provisions
and practices against women.
27. Business failure is widely explained by a lack of training in management
and technology. Lacking networks, lacking specific and complementary courses
directed to them, and lacking time because of family responsibilities, women
have less opportunity to gain access to existing training services.
Furthermore, in many cases courses are not directed to the sectors in which
women are active.
28. In a global context, in many countries, national development policies
have been biased towards large public and private enterprises, while the
micro- and smaller-sized enterprises of the economy, have been marginalized.
The concept of small- and medium-sized enterprises needs to be redefined. For
example, the informal sector in Africa has been recognized by the African
Development Bank as a major source of entrepreneurial talent that, in small
businesses, could drive and sustain the growth of a private sector in
29. There are few "old girl" networks that support, encourage, and advise
neophyte women entrepreneurs, and male-dominated associations are usually not
women-friendly. The importance of role models and mentors in the decision to
become an entrepreneur and in the growth of an enterprise has been widely
reported by most experts.
30. Today, women entrepreneurs face important challenges. They need to
expand beyond low-skilled, easy-entry, low-margin businesses to more lucrative
and more productive activities. They also need to make their voices heard by
making their money talk. Finally they need to expand the pool of women
entrepreneurs so as to increase their economic clout.
1/ Report of the World Conference to Review and Appraise the
Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development
and Peace, Nairobi, 15-26 July 1985 (United Nations publication, Sales No.
E.85.IV.10, chap. I, sect. A.
2/ Women's Indicators and Statistics Data Base (WISTAT), version 3,
3/ African Development Bank/African Development Fund, "Policy paper on
women in development" (Addis Ababa, 1990).
REPORT OF THE EXPERT GROUP MEETING ON WOMEN AND ECONOMIC
New York, 7-11 November 1994
I. PREAMBLE .............................................. 1 - 10 10
II. RECOMMENDATIONS ....................................... 11 - 90 11
A. Women as leaders and managers ..................... 11 - 37 11
B. Women transforming enterprises and financial
systems ........................................... 38 - 58 16
C. Women as economic actors organizing for visibility
and change ........................................ 59 - 90 20
1. As the twentieth century draws to a close, the world is experiencing a
period of profound and rapid change. Borders are shifting, communication gaps
are shrinking, and new roles are being defined for Governments, institutions
and individuals. Whether or not their contributions are visible, women are
driving forces - and sometimes the leaders - in these changes. The
participation of women in economic systems is not a proposition, but a
reality; not a choice, but an economic necessity. Women's resources need to
be fully mobilized and the full potential of their contribution needs to be
tapped if transformational and people-oriented change is to be brought about
globally and locally.
2. Governments around the world are changing their roles. Many have been
forced to scale down. Some have begun to adopt the roles of policy shapers,
catalysts and priority-sector funders, but many public-sector structures
remain rigid, bureaucratic and unresponsive to economic change and societal
needs. In most of the national and international organizations responsible
for economic decision-making, women have yet to assume leadership roles.
3. It is critical that women, individually and collectively, assume
positions of power on boards and as managers, in business and banking
entities. This will allow them to influence the direction of the huge
resources controlled by large private entities and have a voice in shaping our
world's values. Women's meaningful participation in strategic decision-making
is good for women as well as for organizations, business and society.
4. Women are entering the ranks of management in public and private
organizations and corporations at a time when their contribution can be
crucial. But they are not advancing as quickly as they should. Self-employed
managers and top-level women employed in organizations operate within
different frameworks of barriers and opportunities, but their functions and
roles in economic decision-making overlap and are potentially synergistic.
5. Macroeconomic policies have created barriers and opportunities for women
in the market. Jobs in export manufacturing have opened up, but wage levels
are often low and have not appreciably improved women's economic position. On
the other hand, as jobs in the formal economy have started to yield only
marginal or disappointing income, more women are seeking alternatives through
new channels. Measures are still needed to fully reflect women's economic and
6. As large organizations in the public and private sectors scale down,
women in smaller firms are increasingly filling gaps as sources of innovation,
employment and economic growth. For low-income women, self employment and
micro enterprises are often the only available ways to survive and gain some
incremental income. Often, however, survival activities evolve into
enterprises that provide a source of employment as well as family income.
Women at all economic levels are starting their own businesses, in the belief
that these organizations can better reflect their life-styles and values and
be more flexible in responding to society's needs.
7. Making over 80 per cent of the world's household purchasing decisions,
women have tremendous power as consumers, which has hitherto been underplayed.
They are organizing consumer groups and influencing the demand for products,
production processes and economic policy. As new values shape the global
context, women are likely to have a stronger voice in emerging sectors such as
environmentally friendly products and human services.
8. Women are asserting themselves as economic actors and organizing for
change. Gradually, they are moving into key decision-making positions in
national and international bodies and in businesses and enterprises. They are
beginning to play an important role in shaping the global economy.
9. In order to assume a more meaningful economic leadership role for the
twenty-first century, women will need to be equipped with the opportunities,
skills, support and latitude to exercise their vision and talents. In the
body of this report, three main areas of action in this direction are
(a) Building women in leadership and management roles;
(b) Transforming enterprises and financial systems;
(c) Women as economic actors, organizing for visibility and change.
10. Women's economic participation and power are of pivotal importance.
Women's larger incomes translate directly into better health, education and
welfare for their families. Economic clout translates into political clout
and social change. Women's economic participation and power would give women
more control and confidence to deal with environmental devastation, poverty,
violence, and peace in their world.
A. Women as leaders and managers
1. Areas of opportunity
11. Women are entering the ranks of management at a time of unprecedented
opportunities and unparalleled risks. As the role of Governments diminishes
in many countries, women in the public sector face the possibility of losing
their jobs. As international organizations and large private companies
reorganize, women in positions perceived as less essential are threatened with
redundancy. In an era of streamlining, positions are being cut even at the
highest level, and competition for executive positions is intense.
12. In virtually all organizations - public or private, large or small,
national or international, rural or urban - women are entering the lower ranks
of management but rarely advancing to the top. They represent an estimated
40 per cent of the workforce, but less than 20 per cent of management, and
6 per cent or less of senior management. Horizontal distribution is skewed as
well: female decision makers are concentrated in social rather than economic
and line ministries, in non-strategic sectors, and in staff and administrative
rather than line and professional management positions. Rates of
participation are growing slowly in government, national and transnational
corporations, financial institutions and the international political and
economic decision-making bodies.
13. When women do rise to high positions, their potential is underutilized.
Organizations are beginning to recognize the value of women's approaches to
management and decision-making, but the majority still do not fully benefit
from women's unique skills and approaches. Women are not given the training
and support they need to move into management positions, and invisible
barriers ("glass walls") cut them off from the informal and formal networks
that they need to be effective and advance within organizations.
14. Women are overcoming considerable obstacles as they move into
decision-making positions. Tradition and stereotyping direct girls away from
economics, technology, planning and other subjects that prepare them for
professional and management careers. Entry and advancement are constrained in
a male-controlled working world, where the traits considered desirable for
management - aggressiveness, competitiveness, drive - perpetuate gender biases
in values, recruitment, placement, evaluation and promotion. With lack of
accountability and transparency in procedures, bases for appeal and redress
are limited. As women advance, they are further disadvantaged by a lack of
career counselling, leadership training, role models or a critical mass of
senior-level women who could provide guidance ("mentoring"), and contribute to
the creation of networks and advocacy groups.
15. Policies and legislation create a work environment that does not
adequately value or support women. Equal opportunity programmes and
equal-pay-for-equal-work laws have been put in place in many countries but
often without strong oversight and enforcement. Wage gaps continue to be an
issue, even at the highest corporate levels. Progress in providing leave, day
care, flexible working arrangements and other supports is still insufficient
to allow women (or men) to reconcile work and family responsibilities.
16. Women have considerable potential to increase their power and organize
for collective action and change. Effectiveness depends on gaining access to
more comparative data, current information on management, and existing formal
and informal networks. At the same time, women need to develop their own
groups and associations, within and across organizations, and a stronger
advocacy voice, through greater representation in trade unions, employment
associations and other collective bargaining groups. Female leaders in
business and government need to reach beyond the economic community as well
and forge partnerships with women in politics so as to leverage policy and
2. Increasing women's access to decision-making roles and their effectiveness
17. Women are not moving into strategic decision-making areas and positions
as quickly as they should. Even though more women have entered the pipeline,
it will take years for natural progression to alter significantly numbers at
the top. Concerted efforts are needed to build critical mass, which is
crucial for creating spheres of influence and networks. Support from top
executives and policy makers in government and business is needed to
demonstrate the seriousness of commitment to advancing women but is
insufficient without action, follow-up, incentives for action and sanctions
for inaction. Although there are questions about the efficacy of affirmative
action programmes and quotas, their utility as a catalyst and an institutional
conscience is considerable.
18. Women are proving that with adequate training and support, they not only
perform well but may be better suited to modern management. Female managers
should be seen as competitive assets to organizations rather than a legislated
necessity. Many private-sector companies are already adopting creative and
innovative management styles associated with women: less hierarchical, more
people- and process-oriented, sensitive to societal needs. Recognition of
such contributions needs to be generalized to the rest of the private sector,
the public sector and international organizations.
3. Transforming organizational systems
19. Increasing numbers will not effect sustainable change, unless they are
backed by a responsive organizational environment and a vigilant legal base to
ensure accountability and transparency. Transformation of organizational
structures and cultures is needed to remove permanently gender biases in
policies, rules and behavioural norms. In moving to a gender-neutral set of
standards, statements of vision and mission, corporate values, organization of
work and outputs are likely to change. Organizations need to look beyond
numbers - to policies and actions that change the basic conditions of
employment, create a work environment that is more responsive to women's needs
and multiple roles, and provide incentives for encouraging women's advancement
and contribution. Gender-sensitive training in public and private companies
can help men not only recognize the contribution of women but internalize and
adopt women's values and approaches and share the responsibility for
addressing gender issues and promoting change.
4. Strategic objectives and actions
20. Governments and international institutions should lead the way in
eradicating barriers to women in management by intensifying efforts to improve
their own staff composition and work environment. Members of the United
Nations system should develop equal opportunity policies, guidelines, action
plans, monitoring mechanisms and oversight units plus a full programme for
reconciling work and family responsibilities. The Fourth World Conference
provides them with an opportunity to re-examine the targets set by the United
Nations General Assembly in 1990 to determine whether they provide a valid
framework for the near term. When targets are set, they should be realistic,
enforceable and tailored to the organization.
21. Governments can create a supportive environment for the advancement of
women in decision-making by developing, in cooperation with women's
organizations and labour groups, national affirmative action policies,
programmes, monitoring mechanisms and oversight bodies such as equal
opportunity programmes and special commissions. Governments should provide
clear guidance in the setting of quotas and targets necessary to create a
critical mass of women at all levels. Governments should create, where they
do not exist, and empower, where they do exist, regulatory bodies and
enforcement mechanisms as a means of eliminating barriers to women's
22. Organizational action should not depend on legislation. Public and
private organizations and corporations at the national, regional and
international levels should have in place by the year 2000 a full programme of
actions to support women's professional development and advancement (policy
statement, action plan, focal points, monitoring and advisory groups, measures
to reconcile work and family responsibilities).
5. Increasing access to decision-making
23. Government policies and programmes should promote universal primary
education, encourage girls' participation in education through the secondary
and tertiary levels, and encourage orientation of girls towards professional
and management-oriented subjects.
24. Sources of guidance and counselling for parents and children on
educational and professional choices need to be expanded by involving a wider
range of resources, including business and professional associations, women's
non-governmental organizations, and ministries of labour, education and women.
Community, religious and other groups should be involved in comprehensive
efforts to change perceptions about women's capabilities and roles.
25. Recruitment efforts by vocational, technical, commercial and other
specialized institutes and by universities should be increased in order to
attract young women to technological, value-added fields. Government and
individual institutions should adopt measures to increase the intake of women
at the tertiary level (e.g., quotas, subsidies). Private and public
institutions (universities, management institutes), in partnership with
government and private corporations, should make active efforts to attract
women for management training programmes.
26. Whether or not legislation is passed, public and private organizations
should be pressed to alter rules, regulations and conditions of employment to
be more responsive to women. Private and public companies and Governments
should reassess their practices for selection of political appointees, special
officers and board members to ensure greater representation of women. Labour
and women's groups should lobby for policies to ensure:
(a) Gender-unbiased hiring criteria, affirmative placement and retention
measures (e.g., incentives to hire women);
(b) Transparent recruitment, hiring, placement evaluation and promotion
(c) Monitoring and oversight of progress.
27. Regulations that create structural barriers to women's advancement
should be revised. For example, all agencies - international institutions in
particular - should remove obstacles to women's mobility where promotion
depends on relocation (e.g., assistance with spouse employment).
6. Increasing women's effectiveness in decision-making
28. All public, private and international organizations should equalize
opportunities for on-the-job career development and specialized training.
Multinational corporations should design and implement programmes for women in
management positions where they operate. Government, private corporations and
international agencies should promote participatory leadership training for
women in existing or newly created institutes. In cases where scholarships
are awarded, a policy of targeting at least 50 per cent to women should be
adopted, and leave arrangements to balance career and family obligations
should be made.
29. Comprehensive efforts are needed to restructure in-service training
programmes. Public and private firms, in collaboration with training
providers, should develop structured on-the-job learning opportunities to
prepare women specifically for higher-level management positions. They also
should seek assistance in designing new staff refresher courses that reflect
the leadership and management styles of women.
30. Women executives and leaders should make active efforts to assist other
women in moving into high decision-making positions. Women managers, with the
assistance of personnel officers, should design in-house activities to develop
management skills (leadership tracking, "mentoring", career counselling and
coaching programmes). Where possible, institutions should draw on the
experience of public and private corporations which have been successful in
these areas. Women's professional associations should provide counselling and
work closely with women-owned businesses and female executives to help
identify employment opportunities at higher levels and to increase
representation of women in appointed as well as career positions. Women
executives in multinational corporations should work with women's groups to
increase women's participation in senior management at headquarters and in
31. Employers and trade union leaders should support the increase of women's
collective bargaining power through greater involvement of women in decision-
making positions in trade unions, employee associations and in negotiation of
labour policies and legislation.
32. Within organizations and professional associations, there is a need to
develop access to information. Women executives should take the lead in
helping to set up internal newsletters and exchanges of information across
33. Senior women in politics, business, management and education should
develop stronger linkages and form professional women's associations for
support, advocacy and lobbying. International professional associations and
non-governmental organizations should become involved, where appropriate, in
assisting in the formation of women's business groups.
7. Transforming organizations
34. Strong statements of support from leaders of government and public and
private corporations are critical. If such support is not forthcoming,
women's employee and professional groups, international agencies and the media
should press for it. Policy statements should be followed up as soon as
possible by concrete action plans that build in baseline studies, timed
actions, indicators for evaluation, and creation of advisory and oversight
35. Employers should provide gender-sensitive training for men and women
which promotes unbiased working relationships and integrates alternative work
and management styles.
36. In order to capture rapid changes in the work place, personnel and
equal-opportunity officers should encourage development of task forces linking
public and private-sector organizations, to provide feedback on progress and
37. At the governmental level, legislative directives should be given to
promote programmes to balance work and family for both men and women. In all
workplaces, a comprehensive agenda of measures should be adopted, including
the provision of adequate parental leave with obligatory paternal leave;
flexible working hours and alternative working arrangements; adequate day-care
facilities or support. Permanent task forces on the quality of life should be
set up within companies, to provide ongoing feedback.
B. Women transforming enterprises and financial systems
1. Areas of opportunity
38. Millions of women of all economic levels are taking the lead in
building enterprises. Women entrepreneurs, operating in rural and urban
areas, have demonstrated their capacity to save, repay loans, and build income
and assets. Yet, women operating enterprises of all sizes face problems with
access to finance, information and markets. Access problems relate to women's
relatively low incomes, lack of assets, and the small size of their
businesses, as well as gender. Women also face problems with laws and customs
which deny them property rights and credit access. While women entrepreneurs
can be found in all sectors, many focus on commerce and services and in low
growth products and markets. Many women begin their enterprises in order to
survive, and need to build their confidence, financial management, technical
capacities, and marketing links, if the enterprises are to grow.
2. Transforming financial systems and building linkages
39. All women need access to credit and savings services in order to become
economically self-sufficient. Credit and savings services are particularly
central to the ability of women entrepreneurs to increase their income and
assets. Financial systems and institutions need to be reshaped if women are
going to gain access to the lending services they need in order to survive,
build incomes and assets, and create enterprises that contribute to economic
growth and social change. Most of the millions of women in small and micro
businesses lack access to financial services from traditional banking
institutions. The culture and cost structure of traditional banks makes them
uninterested in making small loans. Poverty-oriented banks, business
non-governmental organizations and other specialized financial intermediaries
have shown that financial services can be provided to low-income women
entrepreneurs on a sustainable basis. Women in small and medium-sized
business need venture capital, access to term loans for equipment, and a range
of banking services. Traditional and new financial institutions need to
respond to these needs. Governments and external funders need to give
priority attention to financing the structures that support women-owned
40. Experience demonstrates that well-designed business development services
- training, advisory, technology, and commercial linkage services - are as
important as money if women entrepreneurs are going to move beyond survival
levels and play dynamic roles in local and global economies. For women in
micro and small enterprises, training in cash and credit management,
confidence-building, and the technical skills to expand their enterprises are
particularly important. Marketing strategies, market exposure and commercial
linkages will be of critical importance if women entrepreneurs are going to
build value in traditional sectors, move into growth sectors, and expand their
participation in export markets. Well-designed training and advisory services
provided by non-governmental organizations and enterprise associations will be
important. Linkages among women entrepreneurs from different sized
enterprises and different economic levels will be critical in know-how
transfer and enterprise networks.
3. Strategic objectives and actions
41. Governments and international financial institutions should provide a
conducive environment to encourage women-owned enterprises by restructuring
policies. By supporting private institutions such as non-governmental
organizations, cooperatives, credit unions and grass-roots organizations that
have the capacities to reach women in rural and urban areas, these
institutions will open women's access to finance, markets and technology.
42. Business non-governmental organizations, specialized financial
intermediaries, cooperatives, credit unions and women's groups should play
leading roles in providing finance and business services, particularly to low-
income women entrepreneurs. Those women's organizations that cut across
economic groups will need to use their influence to change processes and
practices of traditional banks to open women's access.
43. Women face many cultural barriers that need to be overcome in designing
policies, programmes and specific services, such as norms on "appropriate"
sectors for women, the undervaluing of women's economic activities, and
undermining women's confidence. Intermediary organizations should provide
confidence and capability-building services for women.
44. All ministries should expand their roles as advocates for women's
economic issues and ensure gender sensitivity in all sectoral policies,
budgets and programmes. All ministries need to build forums, in partnership
with women's organizations and grass-roots groups, to ensure that the voices
of self-employed women and women entrepreneurs are heard by Governments and
bank policy makers. They should also encourage the media to feature women as
active economic agents.
45. Governments, banks and external funders need to give priority attention
to a major expansion in resources for women-owned enterprises and for the
financial and business development organizations that serve them.
4. Transforming financial systems
46. Women should be able to receive credit in their own right and should be
entitled to hold land and other assets. Governments should enact legislation
that removes barriers to women's economic participation, particularly as they
relate to property rights, other asset holding, inheritance laws, labour and
47. Finance ministries and central banks should enable and encourage the
organizational and structural changes in financial systems that are needed if
women entrepreneurs and producers are to be reached, by:
(a) Ensuring stable conditions in the financial system;
(b) Enabling and encouraging a wide range of solid, responsive
institutions to enter and participate in small and micro enterprising
financing. This includes banks, non-governmental organizations, credit unions
and women's groups;
(c) Reallocating a large portion of governmental and external funding to
successful institutions that reach women entrepreneurs. These are
investments, not expenditures;
(d) Making sure that these institutions are capitalized, eligible for
refinance, and receive adequate institutional development support;
(e) Encouraging linkages between formal financial institutions and
non-governmental organizations in leveraged bank/non-governmental organization
48. Financial intermediaries that seek outside funds - capitalization,
institutional development and commercial loan funds - should meet high
standards of performance and have credible plans for sustainable operations
and significant impact. Keys standards are: excellent repayment,
unsubsidized loan rates, substantial progress towards self-sufficiency, market
penetration for significant outreach, credit-related training, sound
institutional operations, strong direct and indirect savings mobilizations,
and a growing capital structure. Capitalization is key if financial
intermediaries are to build the basis for self-sustaining services through
investing, building loan portfolios and using capital to leverage funds from
the local banking system.
49. Financial intermediaries and women's groups should be supported in their
programmes to expand saving mobilization services for women and for opening
women's access to finance as consumers as well as entrepreneurs.
50. Commercial banks need to recognize the market potential of women in the
small and micro-enterprise sector. Commercial banks should learn about the
experience of those banks and other intermediaries that have realized healthy
profits from small and micro-enterprise lending. Banks and financial
institutions should structure services to reach sizeable markets comprised of
businesses run by women. These markets can be reached by hiring more women,
setting up special business units, establishing "storefront" branches, and
adapting consumer loan technologies for small and medium business loans.
51. National development banks should:
(a) Expand wholesale lending to those institutions that meet performance
standards, including non-traditional institutions with demonstrated capacity
to reach women entrepreneurs;
(b) Motivate and encourage the local banking sector to lend to women in
micro and small enterprises;
(c) Publicize success stories, organize exchange among leading
practitioners, and facilitate gender-sensitivity training of managers and
officers of retail-level financial intermediaries;
(d) Provide refinance to a wide range of institutions;
(e) Channel capitalization to competent retail intermediaries;
(f) Fund measures by retail institutions in strengthening their capacity
to serve the financing requirements of women in small and micro enterprises.
52. Multilateral, bilateral and private funders should provide flexible
funding - including funds for both institutional development and equity - to
qualified financial intermediaries of all sizes that meet high standards of
performance and that are positioned to expand their scale and reach. Funders
should provide financial and other support in a form that fosters a move to
financial self-sufficiency. Multilateral funders should encourage recipient
Governments to allocate a greater portion of their national budgets to
private-sector organizations providing finance and business services to
women's enterprises. This funding should be recognized as a productive
investment, not a social expenditure.
5. Building capabilities and commercial links
53. Enterprise associations, business non-governmental organizations, and
national training institutes should expand those need-based training, advisory
and mentoring programmes that have proven effective in giving women
entrepreneurs what they need. This includes basic cash and credit management
skills, building women's confidence in expanding their businesses, technology
improvement and transfer, technical skills, and encouraging commercial links
involving women-owned businesses. Women also need advice on legal rights that
relate to assets, land tenure and credit access. Particular attention should
be given to effective outreach strategies targeting women from rural areas.
These programmes should receive financial support from Governments and
external funders. Financing strategies for these business-development
services should combine partial cost recovery with capitalization strategies
that encourage the sustainability and growth of these programmes.
54. Innovative capability-building and commercial-links programmes should be
encouraged, including apprenticeships and enterprise learning and network
approaches that take training out of the classroom, mobilize entrepreneurs to
train other entrepreneurs, and promote networks of enterprises.
55. Business development organizations should give particular attention to
growth opportunities in sectors that add value and values; these include
environmentally positive enterprises, food-processing and health-related
businesses. Particular efforts also should be directed at building women's
ownership roles in product and service areas with strong growth prospects.
56. Governments should set policies, fund programmes and play catalytic
roles. Governments should rely on and support private-sector organizations
that provide direct financial and other business services to women
entrepreneurs. Rather than implement direct financial and business
development services, women's ministries should be active as advocates for
women's economic issues and should coordinate and integrate women's concerns
into sectoral and interministerial policies, budgets and programmes.
57. International networks of women's organizations should be encouraged to
develop mentoring, joint venture, technical and commercial linkages between
women-owned enterprises within regions and globally. These initiatives should
also receive the support of government and international funders.
58. Large multinational and local corporations should be encouraged to play
an active role in the promotion of women-owned businesses, by building
positive subcontracting linkages.
C. Women as economic actors organizing for visibility and change
1. Areas of opportunity
59. To be truly empowered economic actors, women need to break out of
isolation and organize into effective groups to influence local and national
government, bank policies and resource flows, the media, and the social fabric
as a whole. Women need to look beyond their immediate environments to create
networks cutting across sectoral and professional boundaries and national
borders and so create new opportunities.
60. Women should take action individually and collectively by using their
economic power as workers, consumers, voters, managers, executives and
entrepreneurs. Women need to organize into effective pressure groups to
increase their influence and build joint economic activities. Women should
use their talents and creativity in group activities to organize around
economic issues and use their combined economic power to affect societal
61. The preparation and dissemination of gender disaggregated data and
research are vital in building an awareness of women's contributions as
economic actors, in monitoring resource flows to and from women, and in
highlighting gaps between policies and practices affecting women managers and
2. Strategic objectives and actions
62. All women should be encouraged to use their vote to increase the number
of women in parliaments and municipal councils and to advocate for the
election and appointment to policy decision-making positions of men and women
who will represent women's economic and political interests.
63. Alliances should be built with women parliamentarians, women's networks
in ministries and corporations and with activists at the grass-roots level.
Pressure groups should be created at all levels to influence decision makers
about the contribution of women managers and entrepreneurs to national
economies, and make them responsive to the talents and expertise of these
women in order to ensure their effectiveness.
64. Mechanisms should be created at the national and international levels to
ensure transparency and to monitor the performance, commitment and
accountability of Governments; national, regional and international financial
institutions; and internationally funded programmes.
65. Women should participate in the leadership structures of organizations
currently run by men, such as chambers of commerce and industry, trade
organizations, employers' organizations and cooperatives.
66. The creation of women's consumers' associations should be supported so
as to ensure that decision and policy makers will create an enabling
environment for women managers and entrepreneurs, and to monitor the
macroeconomic direction towards people-centred goals.
3. Women's managerial and entrepreneurial organizations
67. Women's managerial and entrepreneurial organizations should forge
alliances with other women's organizations so as to put pressure on the public
and private sectors. Pressure should be focused on women's representational
parity in all economic decision-making forums, such as chambers of commerce,
employers' organizations, trade associations and workers' organizations.
68. Women's organizations, locally and globally, should develop networks of
partnership and sponsorship, leading to a pooling of their human resources so
as to ensure synergy in their decision-making activities.
69. Women's organizations should lobby for greater women's involvement and
gender consideration in regional and international economic groupings,
institutions and trade liberalization schemes.
70. The efforts of individuals and associations should be directed at
strengthening North/South linkages at all levels. Mechanisms need to be
created to ensure that northern production and consumption do not have a
negative impact on southern producers. Senior women in multinational
corporations and export-oriented industries should be made accountable for the
treatment and working conditions of women workers.
71. Databases should be created by women's managerial and entrepreneurial
organizations, documenting the challenges, opportunities and success stories
of women managers and entrepreneurs, to encourage information-sharing, lateral
learning and positive role models.
72. Women managers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders should encourage
governmental purchases and contracts to be directed to women-owned businesses.
73. Women working in family enterprises should be made more visible, and
pressure should be exerted on the Government for legislation protecting their
legal and financial rights.
4. Women micro-entrepreneurs
74. Women micro-entrepreneurs should create collective ventures to increase
their economic impact in the community and forge links with larger women's
business organizations so as to gain access to local and international
75. Rural self-employed women and micro-entrepreneurs at the survival level
should organize to gain access to technical linkages such as technology and
skill transfer, credit, workshops, materials, markets and marketing channels,
and adequate social security coverage. Where possible, local governments,
non-governmental organizations, employers' and workers' organizations, and
women's groups should be enlisted to assist in this organizing.
76. To make women's economic contribution visible, in particular that of
rural women, Governments, international organizations and non-governmental
organizations should develop public information strategies. These media
strategies should include the utilization of media materials such as films,
documentaries, photographic exhibitions, magazines, newspaper articles and
fact sheets. These products would be disseminated through all available media
outlets, including international electronic networks, radio and television
77. Corporations, Governments, non-profit organizations, and women's
organizations should be encouraged to fund a major communications programme
featuring women as economic actors with new sets of values that are changing
the world. Economic forums or world caucuses should be formed for women
leaders in all sectors, on building statements and actions that reflect
women's vision of value-centred economies.
78. A public information service should be created to develop new messages
affirming women's business acumen and contribution to their communities and
redefining women's success in economic and value terms. Awards should be
established for journalists reporting on women's economic and managerial
6. Organizing for visibility
79. Databases should be developed highlighting potential women role models
in all sectors, such as business, arts, fashion, politics, public
administration, sports, environment, home-making, farming, teaching and
80. The presence of women economic leaders from all regions and economic
levels at the Fourth World Conference should be used strategically to begin
building a database on women's contributions and innovations.
81. Gender-disaggregated data are needed to understand the magnitude of
women's economic contribution and the gaps between policies and practices.
International guidelines must be developed on women's economic roles as
entrepreneurs, savers, consumers, managers and decision makers, and on their
access to productive resources and decision-making. These guidelines must be
used in the collection of data.
82. Statistics and indicators need to be developed to monitor and measure
women's contributions in various economic settings - formal and informal,
rural and urban. These would include:
(a) Financial flows involving women - savings, lending and investments -
by financial institutions and Governments;
(b) Women's roles in key economic positions, such as senior managers of
public and private corporations at all levels, women entrepreneurs, members of
boards of trade unions, employers' organizations, professional and
entrepreneurial organizations, cooperatives, and senior executives of main
public institutions dealing with economic matters.
83. Statistical terms should be leveraged and modified to accurately reflect
women's economic contributions. Examples include defining the informal
sector, measuring unpaid work, and making demarcations of data within
different sectors of economic activity.
84. Mechanisms at the national and international levels, including financial
institutions, should be created to monitor, evaluate and record the
collection, dissemination and use of these key economic indicators.
85. Institutions at the national and international levels should be
committed to and willing to fund the collection and compilation of
gender-disaggregated data. This includes the collection of statistics in
industrial, agricultural and labour-force surveys. Legislative and
administrative mandates and budgetary support need to be provided to national
statistical offices and research institutions for undertaking the necessary
data-gathering, analyses and dissemination.
7. Information strategies
86. Public information efforts on behalf of women have tended to be ad hoc,
lacking in consistency, intersectoral coordination and strategic design.
Information needs to be produced and disseminated readily and effectively to
make women's economic contribution widely recognized at the national and
international levels. The national Governments, international organizations
and non-governmental bodies concerned should develop public information
strategies to make women's economic contribution visible at all levels.
87. A great deal of research is needed to support the effort to clarify
conceptual definitions; to identify valid and reliable indicators; and to
develop and test effective information strategies. It is also necessary to
delineate the structure, pattern and process of economic decision-making in
order for women effectively to relate to it and use it. These research
projects should be promoted by university centres; research institutes;
centres for women and gender studies; academic and practitioners' groups
studying leadership, management and entrepreneurship; governmental offices
such as ministries of commerce, labour and industry; the private chambers of
commerce and industry and other organizations.
88. International organizations need to develop adequate approaches and
methods to provide technical support for comparative research between
countries and regions.
89. Governments, universities, private institutions, and international
organizations should take the initiative and the responsibility for funding
research on all aspects related to constraints and opportunities for women in
business and management.
90. Recommended research topics include:
(a) Women in management: women's position by industry, functional area
and level, gender bias in companies' policies and practices of recruitment and
retention; development and advancement of women in managerial and executive
positions; mechanisms in terms of communication and control networks of
companies that lessen women's chances of occupying "line" positions; pay
inequities for work of equal or comparable value in unfriendly corporate
cultures; and lack of policies of balancing family and work in the workplace;
(b) Women in business: social, organizational and cultural factors
affecting women business owners' access to information, markets, technology,
financial services and credit; gender bias in governmental procedures and
policies, as well as in non-governmental agencies specialized in providing
financial, services and credit; constraints on women's participation and
access to decision-making positions in employers' organizations;
(c) Performance analyses of successful women entrepreneurs in rural and
urban areas that take into account economic, behavioural and attitudinal
effects on family and social status;
(d) Female participation in the management of regional, national and
international economic organizations, institutions and trade blocs;
(e) The impact on women's entrepreneurial and managerial activities of
new globalization, export-oriented development policies in their roles as
producers and consumers, as well as social reproduction;
(f) Women's participation in family firms and patriarchal factors
intervening in women's access to decision-making in assets-holding in
(g) The impact of women in decision-making positions on their
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