I sometimes wonder — do women in Belarus live a good life? Well, they are better educated than men, live about a decade longer than men, and enjoy generous social guarantees (3 years of child care leave, for example). And they have a high-level of labor force participation and representation in politics.
Even by international standards, Belarusian women seem to live well. In the latest Global Gender Gap Index, Belarus was ranked 26th out of 144 countries — higher than Australia or the Netherlands. The statistics certainly indicate a high-level of gender equality in Belarus.
“Degrees get you the job, but they don’t help you to keep it.” Virginia Ndung’u, a trainee at Nairobi’s software developer accelerator Moringa School highlights one of the many challenges in ensuring students are prepared for the digital economy.
Gender equality is one of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that calls for ensuring women’s full participation in political, economic and public life as a target. Gender inequality is still a key development issue. The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2017 found a gender gap of 42% when it came to labor force participation and earned income. Unrealized Potential, a May 2018 publication of the World Bank Group, puts a staggering figure to the cost of this inequality in earnings - $160.2 trillion globally, or $23,620 per capita.
I opened my first bank account as a new student at the London School of Economics in 1987. This seemingly small act meant that I could manage my own finances, spend my own money, and make my own financial decisions. It meant freedom to decide for myself.
There are some bright spots. In Bolivia, Cambodia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, for example, account ownership is equal for men and women. And in Argentina, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the gap we see at the global level is reversed—women have more accounts than men.
But there are also some very troubling, and persistent gaps. The same countries that had gender gaps in 2011 generally have them today. In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey, the gap in account ownership between men and women is almost 30 percentage points. Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, and Zambia also have double-digit differences between men and women.
Countries have to do better in unraveling the complicated web that women face when they try to do something that for a man, is quite simple. How can we level it up? Let me suggest three things as a start:
Does separating women on public transport tackle the wider problem of sexual harassment and assault, or does it merely move the problem around? How can governments combat sexual harassment on public transport without segregating transport by gender? Does the employment of women in the sector contribute to designing better solutions to improve women’s personal security in public transport and enhance their mobility? Experts on both sides of the issue debated these and other questions at a recent event on “Women as Transport Users and Transport Services Providers – What Works and What Doesn’t” hosted by the World Bank’s transport team. Data reveals that while a significant share of women all over the world experience sexual harassment on public transport, often in pandemic proportions, the majority of cases goes unreported.
The session was conceived to explore development implications of women-only transport; highlight why laws matter for women in the transport sector; and better prepare World Bank staff to discuss these two topics with their respective clients.
The women-only transport concept regularly catches the media’s attention and has been debated before. Those who favor providing women with the option of gender segregated transport say it provides much-needed safety for women and facilitates their access to income-earning opportunities and various services. Those against segregation say it further reinforces gender inequalities and entrenches sexist attitudes.
Yesterday morning I participated in the “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event at the opening of the Mongolian Stock Exchange. A global event sponsored by the IFC and other partners*, the event highlights how economies and individual companies benefit from efforts to close gender gaps in their operations and governing structures.
Earlier I had dug out my notes from a survey of listed companies conducted in 1996. Only 25 of the 249 companies we surveyed counted women as general directors. Today, women lead around six percent of the top 100 listed firms – that is, fewer than 20 years ago. This does not mean that there has not been progress. The last time the World Bank Group enterprises surveys were done, Mongolia had a similar or larger share of firms with women in top management. This number is higher than the region’s average, but such leadership roles were more heavily weighted to smaller firms. Whereas 31 percent of medium-sized firms – that is, those with 20-99 employees – had female top managers, only 17 percent of firms with over 100 employees had women in senior management.
Getting to equal at the top requires more systematic scrutiny of the factors that support or hinder women’s economic empowerment throughout their lives. No one is born a CEO.
“Seventy percent of the world’s extreme poor are women”. If you’ve encountered this statistic before, please raise your hand. That is a lot of hands. And yet, this is what we call a ‘zombie statistic’: often quoted but rarely, if ever, presented with a source from which the number can be replicated.
In the Andean mountain range in the province of Arequipa, women can be found working on rural road maintenance projects.
Meanwhile, back in the capital, members of Peru’s local and national government, as well as representatives from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, gathered in Lima at the “Experiences of Women in Rural Roads” conference to discuss the role of women in the transport sector.
The event highlighted women’s participation in rural road construction and maintenance as a significant step toward gender equality: it gave participants a chance to discuss the impact of these projects, share lessons learned, and inform a Gender Action Plan for the ongoing Support to the Subnational Transport Program. Indigenous women from rural communities in in Arequipa, Junín, Huánuco, and the Amazon attended the event and emphasized the importance of these projects in the development of their communities and the role of these employment opportunities in their own lives, their self-esteem, and their aspirations for a better future.
Since 2001, the World Bank Group (WBG) and the Peruvian government have worked together to promote women’s participation in rural transport projects, expanding employment opportunities for women in rural areas. The Peru Decentralized Rural Transport Project has seen the female participation in rural road maintenance microenterprises reach almost 30%.
Transport is not gender-neutral. This was the key message that came out of a high-level gender discussion co-hosted by the World Bank and the World Resources Institute during the recent Transforming Transportation 2018 conference, which was held in Washington DC between January 11-12, 2018. This was the first time in the 15-year history of this annual event that a plenary session looked specifically at the gender dimensions of transport.
Women represent the largest share of public transport users around the world, yet they face many barriers that limit their mobility. The numbers speak for themselves. Some 80% of women are afraid of being harassed while using public transport. In developing countries, safety concerns and limited access to transport reducing the probability of women participating in the labor market by 16.5%, with serious consequences on the economy: the global GDP could grow by an additional $5.8 trillion if the gender gap in male and female labor force participation is decreased by 25% by 2025 (International Labour Organization). Women and men have different mobility needs and patterns, yet transport policies for most countries remain unrelentingly gender-blind.
Female participation in the transport sector—as operators, drivers, engineers, and leaders—remains low. According to Harvard Business Review, “women make up 20% of engineering graduates, but nearly 40% of them either quit or never enter the profession.” As a result, the transport industry remains heavily male-dominated, which only makes it harder for women service users to make themselves heard, and limits incentives for the sector to become more inclusive.
The gender plenary at Transforming Transportation brought together five women and two men on the panel to discuss these issues and highlight practical solutions used in their work to ensure inclusive transport.
In many ways, girls’ education is a success story in global development. Relatively simple changes in national policies – like making primary schooling free and compulsory – have led to dramatic increases in school enrollment around the world. In Uganda, for example, enrollment increased by over 60 percent following the elimination of primary school fees.
In a new paper, published in Population and Development Review, we explore recent progress in girls’ education in 43 low- and middle-income countries. To do so, we use Demographic and Health Survey data collected at two time points, the first between 1997 and 2007 (time 1), and the second between 2008 and 2016 (time 2).