03 September 2023

The power of partnerships to foster Women’s Empowerment as a key to growth and sustainable development

In the current scenario of unprecedented challenges, with profound implications for the economic and social sustainability of countries – such as demographic and fertility declines  – the recognition and promotion of women’s valuable contribution to the labour force and society as a whole has become more urgent than ever before. Despite the significant momentum that critical issues surrounding gender equality and Women’s Empowerment have gained in the global public discourse in recent years, gender disparities persist across nations. 

The results of the second edition of the permanent Observatory on Women’s Empowerment were presented by Arancha González Laya during the 49th edition of The European House - Ambrosetti's annual Forum in Cernobbio. 

The study underscores the necessity for collaborative efforts and sustained commitment over extended periods to bring about continuous improvement in the journey towards Women’s Empowerment, while also warning against the risks of regression if attention to the issue fades. The European House – Ambrosetti’s Report shows that closing the gender pay gap and having the same employment rate between men and women could generate, annually, an economic impact of up to 11.7 trillion dollars in G20 countries plus Spain – equivalent to 14% of G20 GDP. To reach the employment rate target, 392.9 million additional women should be employed

Although several efforts have been made by many countries on the matter, a general lack of evaluation and accountability mechanisms regarding Women’s Empowerment persists across the globe. In this context, the Observatory aims to measure progress in the field of female empowerment and systematize best practices – working on the principle of accountability and the measurement of social, economic and cultural impacts. The activities of the Observatory have resulted in two composite Indexes, designed with the same characteristics of objectivity, significance and robustness, while developing two parallel narratives.

  • The Women’s Empowerment Progress Index (WEPI), updated to 2023, measures, monitors and tracks the progress of G20 countries plus Spain in multiple domains of female empowerment with the goal of promoting effective policies. 
  • The new EU SheWorks Index, aimed at emphasizing the centrality of women’s access, inclusion and empowerment in the European labour market to release their full potential, focuses on EU-27 Member States plus the UK.

The results of the 2023 Women’s Empowerment Progress Index show once again France at the top of the ranking, followed by the UK and Australia, with Türkiye, Saudi Arabia and India at the bottom, still showing high levels of dynamism. In this picture, Italy ranks sixth with a score of 83.1 out of 100. One of the country's strengths is the share of seats held by women on the boards of publicly listed companies (equal to 42.6% vs. the G20 plus Spain average of 26.5%), also thanks to the implementation of the Golfo-Mosca Law; while a low female labour force participation rate (56.4% vs. 61.4%) and a limited share of women in managerial positions (28.6% vs. 30.9%) represent the most critical issues. 

As for the EU SheWorks Index, the results show a strong concentration of Nordic countries among the best performers, with Sweden, Ireland and Finland in the top three positions, and Greece, Italy and Romania at the bottom. In this context, with a score of 5.4 out of 100, Italy records an extremely high share of women in involuntary part-time employment (equal to 52.6% vs. the EU average of 23.0%) and a higher share of women outside of the workforce due to caring responsibilities (3.1% vs. 1.2%). 

According to these statistics, Italy’s areas for action should be: strengthening participation in education and training and reducing involuntary part-time employment, with the final goal of increasing the female employment rate. Action is urgent, as Italy would need approximately 74 years to attain the present average score of the top 3 performers of 2023

As a result of our previous work and the precious inputs of our Advisors, Partners and Club members, the Observatory has identified three priorities in the field of Women’s Empowerment which could significantly benefit from a successful collaboration between the public sector and the corporate world:

  • Work-life balance
  • Sustainability and decision making
  • STEM and employment

The main takeaways that emerged from the work of the second edition of the Observatory on Women’s Empowerment are:

  • More and better data collection is an absolute priority. Because measuring progress means providing countries with a «ready-to-use tool for improvement» while giving a «gentle push».
  • Allocating government budgets specifically for gender policies, providing the necessary resources to implement initiatives, monitor progress and communicate the commitment to address gender inequalities.
  • Promoting and prioritizing work-life balance as a key tool to boost female employment and create a more supportive and inclusive environment for all parents and caregivers. 
  • Advancing the integration of women into sustainability-related decision-making processes is essential to promote a faster, more effective and equitable transition to a sustainable future.
  • Supporting the incorporation of STEM education across all academic programmes (including humanistic studies) at every level of education, to provide students and workers with a versatile skillset for the future.