More women in business is good for everyone. Women in the U.S. earn on average 79 cents for every $1 that men earn. The numbers are even worse for minorities; African-American women earn only 60 cents, Native American women 59 cents and Latinas 55 cents for every $1 that white men earn. This affects not only incomes, but women’s credit-worthiness, savings and social security benefits, and impacts a family’s ability to break cycles of poverty.

ON THE FRONT: In Tumaco, Colombia, a shopkeeper waits as the day's clientele move through. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
 

A STEADY SIMMER: In Tumaco, Colombia, a woman is seen standing the heat and cooking in an open-air restaurant. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Global gender gaps

The male breadwinner model of society has long gone, yet its influence remains. Around the world, women carry out an average of 2.5 times more unpaid care work than men. And the U.S. remains the only OECD country that does not offer paid maternity or parental leave at the federal level.

We need both governments and workplaces to provide the flexibility that real life demands, with inclusive, equitable and wide-reaching policies, including increased minimum wages. We also need to recognize men’s caring role and responsibility in both policy and practice, and make it both possible and attractive for men to take up parental leave options that will change the old model into one that benefits both women and men.

PRIORITY SHIPPING: In Lebanon, a business owner takes a break from her workday in the shipment yard. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade
 

LOCALLY GROWN: The UN Women's Fund for Gender Equality/Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon supports and promotes local ownership of sustainable resource management. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

Affecting change at home

These are changes that are desirable on both a personal and a national level. A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute shows that if every U.S. state matched the state with the greatest improvement in gender parity, some $2.1 trillion could be added to the economy by 2025. These numbers hold tremendous potential, but we can only achieve them if we overturn the pervasive structural barriers holding back women in business.

I am proud to join thought leaders from the IMF and World Bank, trade unions and civil society, on the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. The panel aims to tackle six key areas of women’s economic empowerment in addressing: discriminatory laws, the care economy, gender pay gaps, women in informal employment, female entrepreneurship and women’s digital and financial inclusion. The panel will publish its first report, containing scalable solutions based on a series of regional consultations, in September 2016.

Economic empowerment for women is just one aspect of full gender equality. However, we must recognize that if we want to see this happen, there must be change in the conditions for women in business, in the U.S. and around the world.

CONSTRUCTING FITNESS: In Mexico City, Julieta Ramirez assembles pieces of gym equipment at the Gimpack plant. Photo: AFP for UNDP/Luis Acosta
 

A COMMUNITY MARKET: On Efate Island in Vanuatu, market vendors take a moment from their workday to stop under the shade of the recently-built Epau road market. Photo: UN Women/Olivia Owen
 

SUSTAINED FINISH: Sandy Lyen, an artisan woodworker, is creating self-employment through Lebanon's growning market for locally-made artisanal goods. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade