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Reflections from social media conversations: What obstacles do women face in their working lives?

Sarah Iqbal's picture
Young women work at sewing clothes in Boké, Guinea. © Vincent Tremeau /World Bank
Young women work at sewing clothes in Boké, Guinea. © Vincent Tremeau /World Bank

Despite numerous reforms, women continue to face discriminatory laws and regulations in many places and at many points in their working lives. Over 9 days leading up to International Women’s Day, we asked you about some of the obstacles you face in your own countries through the World Bank’s Instagram and Twitter channels – and the response was overwhelming.

The inspiration for this campaign was our recent work Women Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform. The study introduces a new index that scores 187 economies in 8 areas, to understand how women’s employment and entrepreneurship are affected by legal discrimination, and how this impacts  women’s participation in the labor market.

Gender equality: Unleashing the real wealth of nations

Annette Dixon's picture
© World Bank
© World Bank

Last week, we launched the Women, Business, and the Law report, which found that despite the considerable progress that many countries have made in improving women’s legal rights over the last decade, women are still only accorded 75 percent of the legal rights that men, on average, are given. As a result, they are less able to get jobs, start businesses and make economic decisions, with economic consequences that reverberate beyond their families and communities.

This is a particularly timely piece of research because as we mark International Women's Day, it’s another reminder of the work we have ahead of us: women without legal protections to go to school or work outside the home are stripped of their voice and agency—and unable to invest in human capital for themselves or their families. With the Human Capital Project in full swing and work underway with more than 50 countries on improving people-based investments, putting gender equality at the top of the agenda will be critical to crafting better policy.

Women and Migration: Exploring the Data

Kathleen Beegle's picture
In observance of the International Migrants Day, Dec 18 

International Migrants Day is a call to disseminate information on international migration and look toward further understanding its intersection with economic growth and socioeconomic wellbeing. Here we draw on data from the World Bank Gender Data Portal to highlight four big facts about women AND international migration.

Innovative research has an impact against gender-based violence

Diana J. Arango's picture
WBG/SVRI Development Marketplace 2018 winner Equal Playing Field is helping boys and girls in Papua New Guinea build social and soft skills to participate in advocacy campaigns to end gender inequality and violence against women and girls. © Equal Playing Field
World Bank Group/SVRI Development Marketplace 2018 winner Equal Playing Field is helping boys and girls in Papua New Guinea build social and soft skills to participate in advocacy campaigns to end gender inequality and violence against women and girls. © Equal Playing Field

Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic affecting one-third of women. It takes many forms, including female infanticide, female genital mutilation, battering, rape, sexual abuse, harassment and intimidation, trafficking, and forced prostitution. It occurs in the home, on the streets, in schools, workplaces, farm fields, and refugee camps, during times of peace as well as in conflicts and crises.

To stem violence, it is crucial that countries and program implementers are informed by evidence on what works best. There needs to be a stronger, broader knowledge base about prevention and response that can inform investments, policy and practice.

Why Do Foreign Investors’ Attitudes toward Women Matter?

Heba Shams's picture
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.
Kuralay Aitzhanova, Dispatcher Manager at the Energy Transmission Control Center of KEGOK. Kazakhstan. Photo: Shynar Jetpissova / World Bank

Sexual harassment – Where do we stand on legal protection for women?

Paula Tavares's picture
Women abused in her home holding her hand up. Stop sexual harassment against women. Violence and abuse in family relations. © Fure/Shutterstock.com
Woman abused in her home holding her hand up. Stop sexual harassment against women, violence and abuse in family relations. © Fure/Shutterstock.com


The #MeToo movement is transforming the way we perceive, and hopefully, deal with sexual harassment.

For too long women have suffered from this type of violence that has negative consequences on their voice and agency as well as their capacity to fully participate in the economy and society. There is ample evidence of the cost of sexual harassment to businesses – in legal settlements, lost work time and loss of business. But sexual harassment also has negative effects on women’s economic opportunities. For example, if no recourse is available to protect them, instead of reporting the problem, women facing sexual harassment in the workplace often say that they have no other choice but to quit. This may mean starting over, missing out on pay raises, career growth opportunities, and earning potential. Studies suggest that sexual harassment reduces career success and satisfaction for women. Yet, many countries still do not afford women adequate legal protection against this pervasive form of gender inequality.

To build a brighter future, invest in women and girls

Jim Yong Kim's picture


Arne Hoel

As we mark International Women’s Day 2018, there has never been a more critical time to invest in people, especially in women and girls. 

Skills, knowledge, and know-how – collectively called human capital – have become an enormous share of global wealth, bigger than produced capital such as factories or industry, or natural resources.

But human capital wealth is not evenly distributed around the world, and it’s a larger slice of wealth as countries develop. How, then, can developing countries build their human capital and prepare for a more technologically demanding future?

The answer is they must invest much more in the building blocks of human capital – in nutrition, health, education, social protection, and jobs. And the biggest returns will come from educating and nurturing girls, empowering women, and ensuring that social safety nets increase their resilience.

According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school, and 15 million girls of primary-school age – half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – will never enter a classroom. Women’s participation in the global labor market is nearly 27 percentage points lower than for men, and women’s labor force participation fell from 52 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2016.

What if we could fix this? Fostering women’s labor force participation, business ownership, and improvements in productivity could add billions to the global economy.


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