Feminist Economic Governance

Policy for Chatham House

New Frontiers in Gender-responsive Governance: Five Years of the W20

Susan Harris Rimmer and Paola Subacchi

6 November 2018

After five years of the W20, women and gender equality remain at the margin of the G20. There is a real risk of the W20 representing a one-off territorial gain at a frontier that could easily be pushed back again. 


No Going Back

Gender-smart Procurement: Policies for Driving Change

21 December 2017

Governments should use public procurement policy as a strategic lever to accelerate gender-inclusive economic growth through the application of state spending power.


Academic Research

Harris Rimmer, S. (2017). The future of women’s economic empowerment in the Indian Ocean region: governance challenges and opportunities. Journal of the Indian Ocean Region13(1), 4–24.
This paper seeks to explore the prospects for women’s economic empowerment in the Indian Ocean region, bringing a feminist global governance perspective to the priority Trade and Investment Facilitation and Tourism areas of the Indian Ocean Rim Association’s (IORA) work. Why would investing in women’s economic empowerment bring benefits to 1 billion women living in the IORA region, and how could such investment also benefit 21 IORA economies? Part I outlines the links between women’s economic empowerment and overall sustainable macroeconomic growth that reduces inequality. Part II sets out some of the ideas that have been developed in other governance fora, or through international organizations. Part III notes some challenges IORA’s leadership may face in pursuing this agenda. I argue that this is an area of great opportunity for IORA, and a test of whether the organization is capable of setting governance and regulatory standards expected of modern regional organizations. Further, this article argues that women are disadvantaged in international trade with a particular focus on Indian Ocean region. Trade governance that gives more precedence to women’s rights recognizes women’s participation in informal trade and seeks to formalize that participation should be core to the enterprise of IORA.

Harris Rimmer, S. (2017). Women in global economic governance: scaling the summits. In Gender and Diplomacy (pp. 140–169).
This chapter provides an examination of the roles of woman participating in global economic governance, with a particular focus on women representing their state in Group of 20 processes. My argument is that economic diplomacy and trade are areas extremely resistant to the participation of women. As of 2016, representation for women in the G20 is at levels of 15 percent or lower in terms of numbers of female heads of state, finance ministers, central bank governors and ‘sherpas’ (senior officials). The economic status and rights of women also remain on the periphery of the G20 agenda.

The rise of economic diplomacy internationally and the investment of emerging economies in economic fora is both an opportunity and a threat to women in traditional diplomatic roles in foreign ministries. It is an opportunity because it is a traditionally ‘soft’ area of international relations possibly more open to women than traditional intelligence or security. It may be a threat because current economic summitry draws on technical personnel outside foreign ministries, such as finance and treasury officials, central banks and the corporate sector. Summit processes also operate informally without the scrutiny from the broader women’s movement that organs such as the UN Security Council attract.

This increasingly important but quasi-informal summitry space is a crucial space for more inclusive representation of women and the potential of an agenda that progresses women’s economic rights.

Harris Rimmer, S. (2016). Australia’s trade diplomacy and the Trans-Pacific Partnership: ‘You’ve got to row your own boat’. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 1–16.
As part of its economic diplomacy, Australia has directed intense effort into both bilateral and plurilateral trade negotiations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. According to then Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, with no major multilateral trade deal in decades, you have to ‘row your own boat’ or risk missing out. With the fundamentals of trade and the nature of trade negotiations changing, trade liberalisation has become an increasingly sophisticated and difficult negotiating area. A case study of the controversial TPP shows the tensions for a middle power navigating this space. The benefits of the TPP are contested and the government faces criticism of the adverse impacts of the agreement, especially investor-state dispute settlement clauses, impact on human rights and suspicion that the TPP is motivated by geopolitical drivers. In order not to lose more than it gains in moving away from the multilateral trade system, Australia must ensure that trade agreements are consistent with WTO rules and have open and fair accession regimes as a basis for signing. Finally, there is the need for higher levels of transparency and democratic accountability than has historically applied. A new white paper is necessary to make the case for trade liberalisation.