WE EMPOWER at the Women Deliver 2019 - Future of Work in the 21st Century


Photo credit: UN Women/ WE EMPOWER 


Over 150 leaders in the business community and from civil society, attending the Women Deliver conference, gathered for a conversation about the changing world of work and its implications for women's economic empowerment. The event was hosted by WE EMPOWER – G7, UN Women, ILO and the European Union, in collaboration with G(irls)20.

The event was emceed by Anna Falth, Economic Advisor and WE EMPOWER Manger at UN Women, who engaged participants through three segments: (1) one fireside chat with UN Women’s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and the European Union Ambassador and Principle Advisor on Gender and the UNSCR 1325, Mara Marinaki; (2) a panel discussion with Dr. Wendy Cukier at Ryerson University and Lareina Yee, Chief Diversity Officer at Mckinsey; and (3) Interactive discussion. Two young women moderated the sessions: Emily Mills, Founder of How She Hustles; and Bailey Greenspon, Senior Programme Manager of G(irls)20.


Photo credit: UN Women/ WE EMPOWER 


A key message was that jobs of the future is an emerging area that is galvanizing both excitement and concerns: if we are not making drastic and transformative changes to the economy and labour market, women and girls risk will lose out on what the 21st century labour market, workplace and marketplace have to offer. Previous industrial revolutions had left women in worse situations and efforts must be stepped up to ensure that history does not repeat itself as a result of the fourth industrial revolution. Since the future is yet to be determined, scenario planning was a key strategy to help adequately prepare for whatever the future holds.

The challenges should be tackled systemically with series of simultaneous actions. A new system is needed that works for both women and men and that is rooted in values of gender equality, diversity and inclusion. For example, labour market policies and workplace practices need to cater for women’s and men’s dual work-life responsibilities (e.g. through shared parental leave and elder care, and flexible working arrangements); and promote life-long learning and skills development – we need to continue to re-invent ourselves and be prepared to adapt and adjust to new realities.


Photo credit: UN Women/ WE EMPOWER 


Participants highlighted sectors that need complete systems reforms, i.e. the education system – which would need to be flexible to adjust to technological advances, and changes in knowledge and skills requirements characterized by the changing world of work; and the financial sector which lack future-looking policies and inclusive fintech (e.g. Mpesa). We need to get out of our comfort zones and explore how we can promote gender equality by introducing software to new areas, such as childcare.  

The discussion revealed some tension between practitioners who believe that jobs of the future will require more women in STEM and those who thinks that other 21st century skills are paramount, such as critical thinking and analysis, and understanding human behaviour and interactions. They agreed however that we need to find more attractive pathways into STEM to increase the pool of women, and more role models for young women.


Photo credit: UN Women/ WE EMPOWER 


Many of the issues driving change or occupying our attention today (e.g. technology, climate and security/terrorism) were not given much attention in Beijing in 1995. The Beijing+25 review in 2020 therefore offered an important opportunity to further elaborate recommendations for systemic change in the future of work in the fourth industrial revolution era to secure a future of work that works for women and that promotes Generation Equality for all generations to come.


“Previous industrial revolutions left women with a serious disadvantage because their architectures were patriarchy driven” – UN Women Executive Director

“We need to change everything – the way that system works, the way women are trained, working conditions… we need to adapt and adjust” -Ambassador Mara Marinaki, European Union

“The only way to get through gender biases and mindset is to colour outside boxes.” – CIO Lareina Yee, McKinsey

“The Women’s Empowerment Principles is the framework for guiding our actions on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the 21st Century workplace and marketplace.” – Anna Falth, UN Women

Photographer & Videographer Credit: UN Women/WE EMPOWER
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