CAIRO - 25 February 2021:Egypt's Ministry of International Cooperation with the National Council for Women, World Economic Forum and the Private Sector launched, Thursday, the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” action plan.
The launch comes within the state’s continued efforts to close the Gender Gap and in celebration of the forthcoming International’s Women Day on March 8.
To clarify more about the accelerator, here are Q&As on the details of the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” Launched by the Ministry of International Cooperation in collaboration with the National Council for Women (NCW) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), and in Partnership with the Private Sector.
What is the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator”?
The “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator”, launched by the Ministry of International Cooperation, in collaboration with the National Council for Women (NCW) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), and in partnership with the Private Sector, is the first of its kind public-private collaboration model in Africa, Middle East and North Africa. It aims to help governments and businesses take decisive action to close economic gender gaps, design innovative plans that will encourage growth and shape the workforce landscape, advance gender parity, diversity and inclusion, and improve the ability of families and individuals to increase their income through economic mobility.
When was it launched in Egypt?
In 2019, Minister of International Cooperation, Rania Al-Mashat, signed a letter of intent with the WEF to work on bridging the gender gap in Egypt, while assuming the tourism portfolio. In that same year, the NCW was chosen as the national coordinator for the project.
This was followed by the selection of co-chairs from the private sector. In 2020, both the public and private sectors began conducting research on how to close the gender gap while looking into international experiences that underwent similar projects. In July 2020, the Ministry of International Cooperation and the NCW officially announced the launch of the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” alongside the WEF.
The announcement also included that the accelerator would be co-chaired by international trading companies, Qalaa Holdings, Travco Group International, and Delta Investment Holdings. In the beginning of this year, an action plan was initiated and it is scheduled to last for three years.
Who are the stakeholders participating in the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator”?
From the public sector, the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” is led by the Ministry of International Cooperation and the NCW, as the two government agencies overseeing the platform. The NCW is also the national coordinator for the platform. From the private sector, it is headed by the Commercial International Bank (CIB), Qalaa Holdings, Travco Group International, and Delta Investment Holdings. This is alongside over 100 companies from the private sector and civil society experts that are participating in discussions and working to promote policies that empower women.
What are the “Closing the Gender Gap” objectives locally and internationally?
Locally, there are four key objectives which are to prepare women for the post COVID-19 world of work, close gender gaps in remuneration between and within sectors, enable women’s participation in the labour force, and advance more women into management and leadership.
Internationally, the accelerator in each country is part of the global network working to find common solutions that can close the gender gap, through the WEF.
How is the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” model applied locally to the needs of each country individually?
The local implementation of the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” is preceded by a nationwide system analysis in coordination with the main stakeholders and local coordinators, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to develop plans that are compatible with each country’s needs.
What will the “Closing the Gender Accelerator” be implementing?
The Ministry of International Cooperation, the NCW, and the WEF developed an action plan, to be implemented across 3 years, consisting of 10 pillars, each including several tasks and sub-actions for all stakeholders to implement, bringing their own expertise to the gender agenda plan. The pillars cover a wide array of fields where development is necessary to ensure women’s inclusion: empowering work regulations, leadership mentorship and protocols, educational reskilling and preparation, digitalization of businesses, and social inclusion measures and policies.
Among the most important features in the action plan is supporting the representation of women in boards of directions and in leadership positions, working to adopt gender-sensitive policies that will help alleviate the challenges women face when having to balance between childcare and work life, encouraging government and private sector investment in investing in childcare and eldery services, launching awareness campaigns that showcase the important role women play in society, and providing women with tech and digital skills while encouraging them to participate in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields (STEM), and artificial intelligence (AI).
The action plan includes strengthening and stimulating mentorship and women leadership programs in companies, improving corporate policies to promote women’s leadership in boards of directors, and building on the capacities of relevant government agencies to expand services and policies that are gender-sensitive. The action plan also entails using networking and digital marketing to help women entrepreneurs and female-led startups have better access to local and global markets.
How can implementing the accelerator’s goals reflect on the country's development?
Studies, both locally and internationally, have shown that the participation of women in the economy, and achieving gender equality in all fields, reflects positively on development efforts. Locally, studies have shown that the participation of women in the Egyptian market would increase the GDP by 34%.
A quick overview of the 10 pillars listed in the Action Plan
The first pillar states that the representation of women on boards should be complemented with regular reporting on gender policies issued from the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA). This will include conducting meetings by both the government and the private sector with relevant stakeholders to develop concrete recommendations in advancing the representation of women on boards.
In order to alleviate the challenges of balancing child care and work life, the government and private sector will also issue policy notes on childcare and elderly care services; aiming to encourage more private sector investment in both the aforementioned services while raising awareness on the important role women play at work and in childcare. This is the scope of work listed under the second pillar.
The third pillar looks into creating safe spaces and places for women to work. The government and private sector will issue a code of conduct and policy notes for businesses across different sectors and industries, showcase regulations against sexual harassment in the workplace and develop policy papers that show the impact COVID-19 had on the employment of women, the gender gap in jobs of the future, and income and economic opportunities. Having policy notes and recommendations shared with the private sector will enhance working conditions for women.
The “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” also aims to provide women with skills, experience, and scholarship opportunities by designing programs that would allow them to enter technology-based fields, such as information technology; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM); and artificial intelligence (AI). Both the government and private sector in the fourth pillar work on equipping women in the digital sphere as it has been proven crucial during the pandemic.
The fifth pillar focuses on promoting company-to-company mentorship, and women’s leadership and mentorship programs. This will encompass organizing yearly events for female business owners and directors to meet and connect with other experts in their fields, building on existing governmental leadership programs, and customizing training programs for women to be represented on boards of specific companies.
The sixth pillar aims to implement gender equality models and women empowerment principles. This entails expanding gender responsive policies and services to promote women’s inclusion in leadership positions, eliminate gender-based pay gaps, eradicate sexual harassment, and enhance work-life balance. The regulations shall be implemented across both the government’s and the private sector’s workplaces.
The Action Plan promotes financial inclusion through training and awareness programmes that enhance financial literacy and encourage women to open bank accounts through the seventh pillar. Egypt also works on establishing a database of women working in the informal sector and providing them with ID cards, which will grant them access to variant economic opportunities.
Alongside the government’s efforts, the private sector will also play a leading role in raising awareness of the role of women in leadership in the eighth pillar, as the work of influential women will be highlighted and showcased as positive examples.
In the ninth pillar, the stakeholders shall work on enhancing their cooperation with the National Wages Council to close gender-based pay gap and achieve pay equity; as part of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), led by the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Women, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The tenth pillar hammers on the use of networking and digital marketing to help women entrepreneurs and female-led startups have better access to local and global markets. This will help encourage the start-up community in Egypt as it is a leading entrepreneurial hub, and will increase local and global exposure for women business owners.