women business and the law
“Maybe in the Middle East … but in our part of the world, there is no gender inequity.” As an Egyptian, I wasn’t surprised to hear such assertions from colleagues when I arrived in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region to deliver a program aimed at creating opportunities for women in the private sector. With its socialist legacy, the region prided itself on gender equality. Women were historically well-represented in the state-run economic systems. I looked at legal frameworks and the Women, Business and the Law indicators and found little evidence of discrimination. Laws on the books were overwhelmingly gender-neutral. I was puzzled.
Then I studied data from the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys: Women’s rates of participation in the private sector told a different story. Women’s status seemed to be collapsing with the state systems and falling as markets started opening. For instance, now, only 36% of firms in the region are owned by women; that is a lower percentage than in East Asia (60%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (40%). Only 19% of companies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have female top managers, compared to 30% in East Asia and 21% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
So I faced the daunting task of delivering a gender program in a region where few believe that there are gender issues to address.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Macedonia, former Yugoslav Republic of
- East Asia and Pacific
- Europe and Central Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Private Sector Development
- gender eqaulity
- women business and the law
- banking on women
- Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
The surest way to empower women, close the gender gap, and ensure women’s participation in the development of their economy is through enabling equal job opportunities and employment for women. Recent efforts such as the Women, Business and the Law (WBL) project show that labor laws do vary between men and women. As we will see in three studies below, the law has an incredibly significant role in understanding female employment.
Eliminating gender disparity in laws leads to higher levels of female employment
The first study finds that gender disparity in the laws favoring males over females tends to lower the employment level of females relative to males, a result driven by employment in small and medium firms. The study uses a broad measure of gender discrimination in laws across 66 developing countries using the World Bank Group projects: WBL data and the Enterprise Surveys data to measure female employment in the private sector.
12-12-12 marks an auspicious day on which couples are rushing to get married. Globally, many women and men have been waiting for this day to mark as the day they got married. Those who miss it will need to wait 100 years to have another chance like this one again. But depending on where in the world they are, getting married will mean different things for these women, their career and future business opportunities.
In many economies around the world women are legally prevented from conducting basic transactions which are necessary precursors to entrepreneurship and employment. Women, particularly married women, can be barred from actions such as opening bank accounts, determining where to work or live, and having the ability to move freely. In some economies married women need their husbands’ permission to carry out such actions.
“If you believe that talent isn’t determined by gender, race or sexual orientation, but is instead a roll of the genetic dice, then the most productive society will be the perfectly fair one. A society that is blind to gender, race and sexual orientation will choose the best person for the job — not just the best white, straight man,” writes Chrystia Freeland of Reuters. In other words, fairness is not only a good thing in itself, it also increases productivity.
U.S. economists Chang-Tai Hsieh, Erik Hurst, Charles Jones, and Peter Klenow argue that up to 20 percent of the aggregate wage growth in the last 50 years in the U.S. could be explained by expanded opportunities in the labor market for women and African Americans. The authors of the newly released draft paper "The Allocation of Talent and U.S. Economic Growth” report that in 1960, 94 percent of doctors were white men, as were 96 percent of lawyers and 86 percent of managers. By 2008, these numbers had fallen to 63, 61, and 57 percent, respectively.