History of the W20: Setting a Course for an Economy Where Women Count

History of the W20: Setting a Course for an Economy Where Women Count

On the background, objectives and activities of the global Women 20 group, whose open meeting is on the agenda of the second Eurasian Women's Forum

The Group of Twenty (G20) brings together 19 leading national economies of the world and the European Union. They joined their forces to withstand the global financial crisis and expand economic cooperation. The agenda of the G20 economic Summit (Argentina, October 2018) covers a few women's issues in the wake of the fourth W20 Summit (Argentina's chairmanship) and its public meeting during the second Eurasian Women's Forum (St. Petersburg, 20–21 September 2018).

Five years ago, at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos (Mexico, 2012) G20 leaders discussed the need for women's economic empowerment in their countries. The partners agreed to ‘take concrete actions to overcome the barriers hindering women's full economic and social participation’.

In 2014, at the G20 summit in Brisbane (Australia), G20 leaders pledged to reduce 'the gap in employment participation rates between men and women in G20 countries by 25 per cent by 2025, taking into account national circumstances, to bring more than 100 million women into the labour force, significantly increase global growth and reduce poverty and inequality'. 

This commitment laid the foundation for the creation of the Women 20 (W20), a new social partner for G20. In 2015 during the Turkish Presidency of the G20 Forum, it was agreed to establish the W20 as its outreach group.

The final decision to create the W20 was taken on 6 September 2015 during a special meeting of official representatives of G20 member states, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), UN Women and the World Bank, as well as prominent business leaders.

Dr. Gulden Turktan, who was then at the helm of the Women Entrepreneurs' Association in Turkey (KAGIDER), became the first founding President of the W20 group. Besides, Gulden Turktan will present a report at the W20 open meeting at the second EUWF in St. Petersburg. 

W20 First Steps: Summit in Turkey

'Successful women serve as role models and inspire other women. In the end, all we need is to inspire other people and find inspiration for ourselves,' said Gulden Turktan in her welcoming address at the summit in Istanbul on 16 October 2015.  36 representatives of 20 countries and two associations, UN Women and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), took part in the summit.

Since its creation, W20 has released 3 communiqués. The final communique is adopted unanimously by all participants of the group if there are no objections. The first communique in the history of the W20 was signed on 17 October 2015.

It calls on G20 leaders to promote women’s economic empowerment through strengthening linkages between education, employment and entrepreneurship; ensure women's access to professional training especially focusing on STEM and humanities; support employment and work-and-life balance by developing and/or improving infrastructural mechanisms for social care; increase the number of women in leadership positions; eliminate workplace discrimination; support women-owned enterprises and innovation.

W20 Dialogue in China

In 2016 the W20 group was supported by China. The second communiqué of the Women's Twenty was adopted on 26 May at the Xi'an Summit, Shaanxi, China. 

W20 representatives called on G20 leaders to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women; promote women's economic empowerment; ensure equal participation of men and women in different sectors and fields. The document also talks about encouraging women and girls in the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), finance, entrepreneurship, green and new technologies.

The W20 also encouraged G20 members to support women in their efforts to participate in the digital economy and encourage investment in women-led digital ventures. Such a choice of priorities is not accidental and is primarily due to their clear relevance for each of the G20 countries. 

Angela Merkel Hosting Women 20

At the third W20 summit under the German presidency the Women 20 group expanded its range of objectives in its final communiqué.

'When we invest in women, we invest in a powerful source of global development' (W20 Official website, Berlin, 2017).

On 26 April 2017, the W20 communiqué was submitted to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Over 400 women representing the business, academic community and the civil society appealed to G20 leaders stating that the G20 could not achieve its goal of ensuring inclusive and sustainable economic growth without making efforts in such areas as:

- ensuring full rights for property, legal capacity, access to finance and technical training for women and girls and their effective protection from violence;

- equal pay and retirement rights for equal employment conditions; 
- equal representation for men and women in decision-making bodies.  

W20 Change of Tone: Not Begging but Demanding

It is expected that in the upcoming 2018 summit, Argentina will maintain the existing Women 20 format. 

Today, Women 20 continues to insist on consolidating women's priorities in all areas of the G20 work (macroeconomics, global economic management, budgeting, etc.) and sets out to “remind” the G20 of its pledges.

Unlike other outreach groups, such as Business 20 (B20), Youth 20 (Y20), Think 20 (T20), Labour 20 (L20) and others which tend to issue recommendations, the W20 now strives to ensure that the G20 makes specific targets.

In the run-up to the next forum, the W20 raises the issue of women's economic adaptation, i.e. creating appropriate conditions for returning to work after maternity leave, providing women with flexible working hours etc. Another hotly-debated issue is the so-called 'silver economy', or the ageining economy and remaining part of the labour force after reaching a certain age.

In 2018, under Argentinian presidency, the W20 will continue to promote economic, financial, digital and rural inclusion for women. Recommendations for G20 leaders will be included in the message of the W20 Summit which will be held in early October in Buenos Aires.