International policy director Rachel Vogelstein talks benefits of gender equality

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Rachel Vogelstein, Women and Foreign Policy Program director for the Council on Foreign Relations, passionately spoke about gender equality and its effects on the economy, nationwide security and foreign relations at a Berkeley Forum event Tuesday.

Vogelstein, a Douglas Dillon senior fellow, spoke about how advancing girls’ and women’s rights both nationally and internationally can accelerate the economy, improve public health and largely improve work in international peace relations.

She referenced statistics about the additional benefits that adding more women into the workforce could have and stressed how making pay equal between men and women could also improve national economies.

“A gender wage gap exists in every country in the world,” Vogelstein said at the event. “The relationship between gender equality and economic stability is clear. … When women participate in economy, poverty goes down and GDP goes up.”

According to Vogelstein, part of the income gap between genders has to do with occupational bias and the amount of time that women are more likely to spend handling caregiving responsibilities.

“The occupations that have been traditionally associated with women are the ones that are traditionally less compensated,” Vogelstein said at the event.

Among these things, Vogelstein talked about the problems associated with financial inclusion and how there is a gender gap in access to credit, savings and bank account ownership in addition to the gender pay gap in income.

Vogelstein also talked about the benefits of reducing the number of child marriages internationally and how doing so will lead to fewer deaths due to premature childbirth.

Lastly, she emphasized the importance of having women present at government “peace negotiations.” According to Vogelstein, agreements during which women are present are proven to last longer and be more effective.

“It is incredibly rare to see women on either side of negotiations. One of the reasons is the perception that women’s participation is deemed unacceptable,” Vogelstein said at the event.I think that ignores an important reality that is in all of these countries: … There are women demanding to be part of the discussion and have a seat at the table.”

Campus sophomore Rebecca Abraham said she came to see Vogelstein’s speech because she thought that Vogelstein brought an interesting perspective to the topic of women’s rights.

“I thought it was interesting that the speaker was talking about why women’s advancement matters as opposed to how to advance women. We don’t hear about that a lot,” Abraham said.

Vogelstein referenced progress made in recent history to advance women’s rights, calling this “a great time to be a girl.” Despite this, however, she stressed that a lot of steps still need to be taken.

“Nobody can get ahead if they leave the other half behind,” Vogelstein said at the event.

Contact Sabrina Dong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Sabrina_Dong_.