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UNDP calls for measures to promote gender equality

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said the global target of a minimum 30 per cent of women in leadership positions, set more than 20 years ago, has not yet been met.

SINGAPORE: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said the global target of a minimum 30 per cent of women in leadership positions, set more than 20 years ago, has not yet been met.

It is calling for concrete action to remove structural barriers, as well as policy and constitutional changes to make it easier for women to progress.

There are only 21 women heads of state or government, and 18 per cent of ministers in government are women.

Women make up only about 22 per cent of national parliaments.

The situation is equally dire for women in the private sector.

Helen Clark, administrator of UNDP, said: "38 of the top 100 companies in Europe and 71 of the top 100 in Asia have no women at all in their executive management teams. Incredible, isn't it? There's a lot to be done."

UNDP is calling for some of that work to include increased investment in women and girls, constitutional, legislative and policy changes, as well as concrete action to remove structural barriers.

Clark said: "If we're going to transform the position of women in the work force, particularly at the top levels, we need much greater commitment to work-life balance policies and practices because people don't work in a vacuum, they work in a context. They work in the context of family.”

The all-women panel of current and former members of government gave flexi-work schemes as an example of those policies.

Intan Mokhtar, member of parliament in Singapore, said: “Flexi-work is something we're still struggling to implement in our workforce.

“Even now we're finding it a challenge to encourage our employers to institute flexi-work, encourage mothers to go back to work, work flexibly at their own time from home. Beyond policy, beyond the numbers, it's also about changing mindsets as well."

Some those mindsets belong to women themselves.

Ton Nu Thi Ninh from Tri Viet Centre for Social and Education Studies, said: "First and foremost, women have to want to sit at the table. And to do that, they have to break free of their own constraints, right in their minds.”

The UNDP hopes that its steps towards promoting an enabling environment would lead to gender equality before 2030. 

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