G7 performance on gender equality
Major gaps in gender equality persist – and some G7 summits have overlooked the area completely. Hiroshima is an opportunity to take stock and implement strategies to bridge the remaining chasms
Despite consistent attention to gender equality in G7 communiqués since 2001 and some significant commitments to take concrete action to improve gender equality, major gaps remain for all members. The gender wage gap is close to 15% in all G7 members. The G7 must now ensure that it keeps its commitments, and use the 2023 Hiroshima Summit to take stock of progress and implement strategies to close the remaining gaps.
G7 leaders first addressed gender equality at their 1990 summit, and then did so consistently since 2001. Attention steadily increased from 2013 until 2019. It was entirely absent in 2020 but reappeared in 2021 and 2022. G7 communiqués averaged 791 words on gender equality at each summit, for 6% of the total words.
The greatest attention came in 2017 with 3,888 words (45%), then in 2018 with 5,086 words (45%). Most recently, the 2022 summit gave 2,885 words (15%) to gender.
Since their 1975 start, G7 summits have made 375 public, collective, precise, future-oriented, politically binding commitments on gender equality, accounting for almost 6% of the total. Between 1996, with the first gender commitment, and 2014, most of those commitments related gender to other issues such as health and education at the core.
Gender equality in its own right became the focus in 2015, peaking between 2015 and 2018. In 2015, the G7 made 34 gender commitments (9%). It made 8 (14%) in 2016, 71 (39%) in 2017 and a record 82 (26%) in 2018. In 2019 the number plunged to 17 (24%) and then to zero in 2020. In 2021 it rose to 30 (7%) and 32 (6%) in 2022.
G7 members averaged 72% compliance with the 48 gender commitments assessed for compliance by the G7 Research Group. This is below the 76% average compliance across all subjects.
The highest compliance came with commitments made in 2002 and 2021 with 100% each, 2013 with 95%, 2018 with 93%, 1996 with 92%, 2014 with 86% and 2007 with 84%. The lowest compliance came with commitments made in 2011 with 45% and 2016 with 47%. By January 2023, compliance with the one assessed gender commitment from the 2022 summit was already 81%.
The highest complying G7 member has been Canada at 87%, followed by the United Kingdom at 85% and the European Union at 78%. In the middle are Germany and the United States at 75% each, and France at 69%. The lowest compliers are Japan at 64% and Italy at 50%.
Causes and corrections
The highest complying summits, averaging 87%, had a high degree of internal G7 institutional support: they coincided with two ministerial meetings on gender equality and the creation of two of five gender-related official and multistakeholder bodies, councils, partnerships, forums and initiatives, including the Gender Equality Advisory Council. The lowest complying summits, averaging 60%, came with commitments made in years when only one such ministerial meeting took place.
The highest complying summits also dedicated a larger percentage of their communiqués – on average 16% – to gender equality. This compares to the 12% average for the lowest complying summits.
Core gender commitments averaged 69% compliance and gender-related commitments averaged 75%. Among the gender-related commitments, those with the highest compliance linked gender equality to health, specifically to maternal and newborn health, AIDS and reproductive health. Commitments with the lowest compliance lacked specificity, but committed to or supported gender equality and women’s empowerment broadly.
The presence of compliance catalysts, such as text on how to implement a commitment, has generally improved compliance. Gender commitments with embedded catalysts averaged 75% compliance, while commitments with none averaged 70%. The catalysts that coincide with the highest compliance referred to an implementation target or a G7 body, invoked legal instruments or mobilised a certain amount of funding.