A commitment to gender equality in economic outcomes, as in other areas of social development and human rights, has emphasized women's empowerment. There is evidence that expanding woman's opportunities - particularly in the areas of health, education, earnings, civic rights, and political participation - decreases gender inequality and accelerates development. However, despite important advances towards equality, gender differences in many socioeconomic outcomes still persist. In light of this, policy makers and social scientists have shifted attention to the role of men in reducing gender disparities.
The 2012 World Development Report, Gender Equality and Development, argues that gender equality “contributes to economic efficiency and the achievement of other key development outcomes.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated at the APEC Women and the Economy Summit that “the increase in employment of women in developed countries during the past decade has added more to global growth than China has, ” and argued that incorporating women into the formal workforce is critical for economic progress. Understanding how major policy changes affect women’s employment and the gender wage gap is therefore critical for implementing future policies that may affect women’s status and opportunities.
Before I started working on the World Developmnet Report 2012 (WDR), I often thought of gender equality being at the periphery of my work on development. Like many other World Bank colleagues, I would have told you: “Yes, gender equality matters and it is a good thing.” But in my mind gender equality was something that happened pretty much automatically with economic development. If asked about policy priorities, I would say: focus on growth, on creating jobs, on reducing poverty and improving equity in opportunities, and gender equality will come right along. But I was wrong. Gender equality is not just something that ‘happens’ with development. Gender equality is both fundamental to and a means for development. And countries need to work hard at achieving it, because it does not come about on its own with economic growth.
Women in development is becoming a front-burner issue and it's exciting to see the many formats that new research, engagement and campaigning is taking as economists, policymakers, advocacy CSOs, grassroots groups, international organizations and socially responsible corporations are getting on the band wagon.
Oxfam's 'From Poverty to Power' blog has a new 'choose this video' post by Duncan Green that asks readers to vote on three short clips that make the case for empowering girls. One is by Nike and the other by the Commonwealth Countries League Education Fund. There's also a parody video.