Gender equality and women's empowerment

In the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Member States have committed to promoting and ensuring gender equality. Addis’ strong focus on gender is anchored in its first paragraph, which commits to ensure gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, and is reflected in gender-specific commitments and actions throughout the seven Action Areas of the Addis Agenda.

In particular, the Addis Agenda:

  • Commits to ensuring gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment
  • Commits to adopt and strengthen policies, enforceable legislation and transformative actions for the promotion of gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment at all levels, to ensure women’s equal rights, access and opportunities for participation and leadership in the economy and to eliminate gender-based violence and discrimination in all its forms
  • Commits to promoting and enforcing nondiscriminatory laws, social infrastructure and policies for sustainable development as well as enabling women’s full and equal participation in the economy and equal access to decision making processes and leadership
  • Commits to increase transparency and equal participation in the budgeting process, and promote gender responsive budgeting and tracking
  • Commits to women’s and girls’ equal rights and opportunities in political and economic decision-making and resource allocation and to removing barriers for women’s full participation in the economy
  • Commits to improve access and opportunities for economic advancement for women; Resolves to undertake legislation and administrative reforms to give women equal rights with men to economic resources, including access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, credit, inheritance, natural resources and appropriate new technology
  • Supports Women’s Empowerment Principles by UN Women and the Global Compact; Encourages the private sector to ensure women’s full and productive employment and decent work, equal pay for equal work or work of equal value, and equal opportunities, and to protect them from discrimination and abuse in the workplace; Encourages increased investments in female-owned companies
  • Urges countries to track and report resource allocations of international public finance for gender equality and women’s empowerment
  • Commits to address challenges to women’s equal and active participation in domestic, regional and international trade
  • Commits to scaling up investments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, and enhance technical, vocational and tertiary education and training, ensuring equal access for women and girls and encouraging their participation therein, (including through international cooperation)


Latest developments

Wage inequality continues to be an important aspect of gender inequality. Globally, the gender pay gap—which measures the percentage difference in pay between men and women—is estimated at about 20 per cent, with important differences across country groups. In developed countries, the gap is generally more pronounced at the upper end of the income distribution, as effective minimum wage policies reduce the gap at the lower end. In developing countries where a large share of female employment is in the informal sector, the gap is larger at the bottom. These differences in pay for the same work are further exacerbated by opportunity gaps, with women often encountering challenges to move to more senior roles.

As highlighted by several recent reports, the world is not on track to achieve the gender goals of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda gaps has been slowing. While women have been catching up in basic capabilities—through access to education, voting rights, and the removal of legal barriers—progress has been much slower when it comes to more enhanced capabilities that involve greater power and responsibility as well as political and economic leadership. Women account for about 60 per cent of contributing family workers worldwide (generally not receiving monetary compensation). COVID-19 may further impact gender equity— for example, through mass school closures that lead to additional childcare work, and other unpaid care work that is still predominantly carried out by women. Women make up only a very small part of the highest-paying jobs, and only about 18 per cent of firms worldwide are led by women.

Eliminating gender inequalities requires a wide range of policy measures, in both developed and developing countries. In many countries, there is still room for further legal reforms, as well as increased transparency, financial incentives (e.g., linked to cash transfer programmes) and programmes aimed at changing women’s and men’s attitudes. Trade unions, together with Governments, business, and employers’ organizations can take a number of actions to tackle gender pay gaps—such as mainstreaming the principle of equal remuneration, awareness-raising, and targeted action, in addition to increased representation of women in decision-making bodies.

Gender responsive budgeting (GRB) enables Governments to plan and budget for efforts to support achievement of gender equality objectives. Although progress has been made in implementing GRB globally, significant gaps remain. SDG Indicator 5.c.1, the international standard for GRB, assesses government efforts to put in place gender-focused policies, gender-responsive public finance management systems and budget transparency. An analysis of 69 countries and areas reporting on Indicator 5.c.1 in 2018 found that 19 per cent fully met those criteria and 59 per cent approached the requirements. The data also revealed a gap in policy implementation. Among the same set of countries, 90 per cent had policies and programmes in place to address gender gaps, but only 43 per cent reported adequate resource allocations to implement them.

Read more on GRB here.

See also

Relevant SDG indicator 

Additional resources