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ET Women’s Forum: Eliminating workplace discrimination leads to increased labour productivity, says Marianne Hagen

The Economic Times Women’s Forum 2019 took forward the mission that it launched last year — to collaboratively and urgently build a sustainable culture of empowering India’s half a billion women — through a scintillating day of conversations and debates about encouraging greater participation and reducing gender inequality in every sphere of life, work, and play.

Gender equality is simply smart economics and, having one of the highest levels of women’s participation in the work force, Norway has learnt that it translates directly to economic growth, welfare and sustainability, said Marianne Hagen, Norway’s deputy minister for foreign affairs.

While most people assume it’s because of oil and gas, equally important is the value of female labour participation. “This is, contrary to the natural resources, a perpetual source of income,” Hagen said.

Gender equality is simply smart economics. This means it should be at the very top of every leaders’ strategy for e… https://t.co/w2X5axxmfX

mdash; Marianne Hagen (@StatssekHagen) 1549624746000

All leaders in the four-party majority government in Norway are women. The three top offices — prime minister, foreign minister and finance minister — are held by women, along with those of chief justice of the supreme court and president of the parliament. While women make up 40% of parliament, in broader political participation, Norway has almost reached gender parity.

World Bank research shows that eliminating discrimination against working women has increased labour productivity by as much as 25% across countries. A separate study by the McKinsey Global Institute calculated that the potential benefit of closing the gender gap in the workforce would amount to $28 trillion in global GDP by 2025. “The facts and the lessons are clear. So at this point, we should get past the why and we should direct all our attention fully on the ‘how’ we should fully evolve women in the labour markets,” Hagen said.

Women’s economic independence and potential can only be realised if they have full economic rights. The effort should be to ensure equal inheritance rights, property rights and non-discriminatory family laws. Access to quality education is also crucial. “For young girls in particular, this is the very basis for work and income,” she said.

Thirteen years ago, Norway was the first country to legislate a gender quota of 14% on the boards of all listed firms. The ratio of women has risen from 7% since then to 40%. “And contrary to the predictions of the critics, business is booming,” said Hagen.