UNITED NATIONS, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Women on average are paid 77 cents for every one dollar earned by a man. To highlight the disparity, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) paused at 4:10 pm on March 15, with 23 percent of the work-day remaining.
A two-week UN conference on women is being held since March 13 at UN headquarters, where issues regarding gender disparity, women in high office and solutions to closing the pay gap are being heatedly discussed.
PAY GAP: 23 CENTS, BIG ENOUGH TO WORRY
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on March 13 at the opening session of the 61st Commission on the Status of Women that "men still dominate in every country of the world" and "male chauvinism blocks women from getting ahead."
Echoing Guterres, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, said that "with the global pay gap at an average of 23 percent, women are clearly earning consistently less than men."
"Women regard this as daylight robbery," she said. "Each year they work three months more than men for equivalent pay."
Furthermore, more than half of women workers around the world are informally employed, such as low-cost farm workers, street food vendors and care workers, almost all without legal or social protection, Mlambo-Ngcuka added.
In India alone, this informally employed sector accounts for 190 million women, she said.
SOME PROGRESS, YET NOT ENOUGH
Several decades of progress for women representatives in national legislatures and top government posts worldwide have "slowed to a crawl," growing last year at a rate so modest that it would "take a half-century" to reach equal representation of men and women in parliaments, according to new research released on March 15.
Three years ago, national legislatures were on track to hit gender parity in less than two decades, with the average proportion of women parliament members growing 1.5 percent a year.
Last year's growth was less than half that rate, according to the research by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
Meanwhile, the number of women government ministers climbed up from 730 to 732, holding 18 percent of such jobs globally.
The number of women presidents or prime ministers dropped from 19 to 17, though it still has more than doubled since 2005.
"There have been gains in women's political representation, but looking at some of the setbacks that we have witnessed around the world, we can conclude that it cannot be taken for granted that this will continue to increase," not without more robust efforts, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said as his group and UN Women released the data.
Fifty-three women presided over parliamentary chambers last year, holding nearly one in five of such jobs. Thirty percent of environment ministers were women, up 10 percent in a year. At the same time, the number of men leading women's affairs ministries rose, though women still helmed the vast majority.
"We have reason to be optimistic because many countries have shown that it's possible to increase women's political representation," said Chungong.
A 1995 UN women's conference in Beijing set a target of having women holding at least 30 percent of government decision-making posts.
The proportion of women in national legislatures has more than doubled in the two decades since, from a global average of 11.3 percent in 1995 to 23.3 percent at the start of this year. Some countries have set quotas to promote women's candidacies.
As of January 1, dozens of the United Nations' 193 member states were over the 30-percent threshold in their parliaments, cabinets or both.
WOMEN'S RIGHTS UNDER FRESH ASSAULT
Women's rights are under fresh assault worldwide, Guterres told the two-week conference that took stock of the fight for gender equality.
"Women are suffering new assaults on their safety and dignity," Guterres said, noting that "some governments are enacting laws that curtail women's freedoms. Others are rolling back legal protections against domestic violence."
"Women's rights are human rights -- and attacks on women are attacks on all of us. This is why we have to respond together," he noted.
Mlambo-Ngcuka added that it was "ever more urgent" that women's sexual and reproductive rights be protected.
A report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), released in Stockholm on Wednesday, said women are still discriminated against in terms of both rights and opportunities, said the report.
"Only 10 to 20 percent of landowners in developing countries are women," it said, even though women in these countries often work in agriculture.
28 TRILLION USD WORTH OF GROWTH
The United Nations has set a global goal of achieving gender equality by 2030.
Mlambo-Ngcuka urged that changing discriminatory laws in over 150 countries "could affect more than three billion women and girls in the world," adding that "advancing women's equality in total could bring a potential boost of 28 trillion U.S. dollars to global annual GDP by 2025."
But, she added, while there has been some progress toward gender equality, gains have eroded and "the much needed positive developments are not happening fast enough."
URGENT ACTION NEEDED
Guterres said that educating and empowering women will unleash their potential and prevent "challenges that arise from violent extremism, human rights violations, xenophobia and other threats."
At an event during the two-week meeting, which ends March 24, UN Women and the International Labor Organization (ILO) announced a group of equal pay "champions" to mobilize global action to achieve equal pay for work of equal value.
Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette, said "women have waited since the beginning of time to be treated equally," she said. "I think the time has come now when we can't wait any more."
Icelandic Minister of Social Affairs and Equality Thorsteinn Viglundsson said he expected his country to be the first in the world to eliminate the gender pay gap by its target of 2022.
A recent study by the ILO warned that without stronger measures, it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap.
To close the gap in various forms between men and women, observers believe that even greater efforts on this front must be made.