VIENNA, 5 June 2021 – Manufacturing industry makes significant contributions to economic growth. However, the over-exploitation of natural resources through industrial production exacerbates existing inequalities and social vulnerabilities. Transitioning to green industry, if planned carefully, can promote a future that supports environmental sustainability and gender equality by decoupling economic growth from resource consumption and facilitating the systematic socio-political transformation needed to address social inequalities. In this process, closing the gender gap in the world of work is a key to accelerating sustainable economic growth. It has been shown that women’s economic empowerment increases productivity and economic diversification. The Women in Work Index 2021 estimates that the OECD countries could add more than US$6 trillion to their GDP if they could match their female employment rates to Sweden’s. Moreover, the gender gaps in entrepreneurship cause an average income loss of 6% in the OECD and more substantially significant losses in developing countries.
As part of the programme, Economic Empowerment of Women in Green Industry (funded by Germany), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), has published a Policy Assessment report covering four participating countries: Cambodia, Peru, Senegal and South Africa. The report’s findings can help policymakers and practitioners establish and implement a policy framework to integrate gender into green industry policies and capitalize on women’s untapped potential as leaders, entrepreneurs, and industrial professionals in the green economy.
Conceptualization of the barriers to women’s economic empowerment
The programme defines women’s economic empowerment as the combination of women’s ability to succeed and advance economically and the power to make and act on economic decisions. To succeed and advance economically, women need the skills and resources to compete in markets, as well as fair and equal access to economic institutions. In order to have the power and agency to benefit from economic activities, women need to have the ability to make and act on decisions and control resources and profits.
The UNIDO report, based on research carried out in early 2020, found that most green industry policies fail to include concrete gender equality measures. Although many of the policies have good implementation plans, there is significant scope for active policies to become more gender-responsive.
Qualitative and quantitative data shows that, in all four countries, there is limited evidence of women’s economic empowerment and of women’s involvement in green industry. The women entrepreneurs interviewed in each country reported similar barriers to starting a green business, including lack of access to funding and financial services; lack of access to technology; lack of information and resources on how to start a business; and lack of incentives for businesses operating in green industry.
However, the research found that women are more attracted to opportunities as entrepreneurs in green industry than in conventional industries due to the strong perception that there are more opportunities for women to progress in green industry.
The report makes numerous key recommendations for stakeholders, including: raising awareness of opportunities for women in green industry; increasing access to technical vocational education and training (TVET); investing in training and capacity-building initiatives for women who are professionals in green industry; and promoting women entrepreneurs who are successful in green industry as role models.
Based on the survey on 100+ female entrepreneurs in green and conventional industries in four countries, below are the five most important strategies to be prioritized in each country.
UNIDO notes that integrating gender in programmes and policies will help all four countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore during the current COVID-19 crisis, gender mainstreaming must be prioritized in all sectors - not only to help women entrepreneurs start green businesses, but also to generate the human resources needed for an efficient economic recovery as a whole.
The assessment reports and executive summaries for each of the four countries: Cambodia, Peru, Senegal, and South Africa, are also available in English, French, Spanish and Khmer.
The next phase of the programme will build on the results of this first phase by focusing on policy development and creating opportunities for women’s economic empowerment in green industry.
For more information on the Economic Empowerment of Women in Green Industry programme, contact:
Ozunimi Iti, UNIDO