Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation, the National Council for Women (NCW), and the World Economic Forum together launched the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator”.
It is a national public-private collaboration model enabling the government and businesses to take decisive action on closing economic gender gaps, the Ministry of International Cooperation explained in a press statement on Monday.
The model supports public and private leaders in shaping innovative pathways to promote gender equality, diversity, inclusion, and economic mobility, which is central to Egypt’s reform agenda.
Egypt is the first country in Africa and the Middle East to launch this unique public-private collaboration model, supported by the World Economic Forum.
The accelerator focuses on four key objectives, namely: preparing women for the post coronavirus (COVID-19) world of work; closing gender gaps in remuneration between and within sectors; enabling women’s participation in the labour force; and advancing more women into management and leadership roles.
For many Egyptians, though, this may raise some questions like, what it really means for women, and how it will impact the country’s economy and support the economic empowerment of women. In this article, Daily News Egypt digs deep to find the answers to these questions. But before that, we must first understand the reasons behind the gender gap.
The glass ceiling
We hear a lot on gender gap, but most of us do not know why there even is one, or what is meant by a gender gap.
Engy Amin, Women Economic Empowerment Project Officer at UN Women, told Daily News Egypt that the gender gap is not referring to the basic wage. It is, instead, witnessed in the lack of access women have to decent work opportunities, and the fact that they often face occupational segregation.
“Men get paid almost 24% more than women in Egypt in terms of cumulative wages,” Amin said.
She added that this gap is due to the barriers that women face, including the employment regulations that stipulate that women should not work in the period from 19:00 to 7:00. This in turn leads to men accumulating more in wages than women, as the latter will only be able to work two shifts while men will be able to work three shifts.
Besides, sometimes men accumulate money from travelling on errands that women could not go for, so these barriers affect the cumulative wages rather than the basic wages.
Amin also talked about the ability of women to gain promotion, as they are often hit by taking maternity leave especially in the private sector. She said that when a woman returns to work, she does not go back to the same level, and sometimes finds that a newer male colleague is promoted to become her senior.
What is the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator?
According to the Ministry of International Cooperation, the World Economic Forum’s Accelerator is a national platform engaging governments and businesses to take action on closing economic gender gaps.
The model helps public and private sector leaders design innovative pathways for growth, shape tomorrow’s education and workforce, and push gender parity, diversity, inclusion, and economic mobility.
Amin stated that the accelerator model suggests policies to guarantee women can return to the labour force at the same level as she was previously (before maternity leave), and gain promotions appropriately.
The accelerator also focuses on policies that speed up women’s labour force participation, retain them in the paid economy, and promote a woman’s return after maternity leave.
According to Amin, Egypt is member of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), and has also set up the National Wages Council to guarantee equal payment. However, this is just in theory, and the gap happens in the application and practice, which explains the accelerator’s focus on policies.
She concluded simply that the Closing Gender Gap Accelerator aims to track the current polices, and suggest policies or measures that can be taken to close the gender gap in the labour market.
According to the Ministry of International Cooperation, the accelerator is designed to identify key economic gender gaps, and develop public- and private-sector interventions for narrowing these gaps. It is also in place to commit the relevant stakeholders from both sectors to a three-year action plan.
The accelerator platform will be co-chaired by private sector representatives, namely, the Commercial International Bank (CIB), Qalaa Holding, Travco Group International, and Delta Investment Holdings.
It will engage with up to 100 private companies in various economic sectors, in addition to civil society experts. It aims to target the endorsement of policies and plans to advance women’s economic empowerment in different fields and at all levels. This brings together multiple stakeholders across the public and private sectors to generate in-depth local assessment, as well as develop needs-based policies. The platform will also look into action plans to address all deficiencies hindering complete and equal female economic participation.
What are the national and international objectives?
As Amin previously mentioned, the accelerator should have measures or focuses. The Ministry of International Cooperation notes that the Accelerator has national-level objectives, focusing on four main points.
These are preparing women for the post coronavirus (COVID-19) work place and closing gender gaps in remuneration between and within sectors. It also looks to enable women’s participation in the labour force, and advance more women into management and leadership.
On the international level, the ministry said that each country’s accelerator is part of the global network for co-creating solutions through the World Economic Forum’s Platform.
Why it is important?
Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, Rania Al-Mashat, said the launch of the country’s Gender Gap accelerator highlights the government’s continuous commitment to this subject. It is particularly emphatic in applying the required policies and structural reforms to push the gender agenda and empower Egyptian women, as women’s participation in the economy is macro-critical.
The Gender Accelerator will bring together public and private stakeholders to generate local insight and develop local needs-based action plans and drive their execution.
Minister Al-Mashat added, “Leveraging on the World Economic Forum’s global platform, the accelerator will indeed help expedite the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 across sectors in Egypt and serve as a multi-stakeholder platform.”
Moreover, NCW President Maya Morsi said, “The accelerator will be the hub for all initiatives that fall under the Women’s Economic Empowerment Pillar of the Egyptian National Strategy for the Empowerment of Women 2030.”
She added, “It will also be the enabler for the economic opportunities for women to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Adapting this tool to the Egyptian context is another guide that is used to enhance our own strategized and coordinated efforts for an effective and efficient outcome.”
Also, Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director and Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society at the World Economic Forum, said, “The accelerator will support local efforts to unleash the full potential of women in the Egyptian economy. The World Economic Forum is delighted Egypt will be the first country from the region to join the global network of Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators.”