Women doing business

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The November edition of the Atlantic asks us to "Think. Again." The authors are not content just to provoke thought, though. Sandra Tsing Loh jumps right into the gender wars in Should Women Rule?, in which Loh reviews a slew of new books on women in leadership positions. Take, for instance, this pull-out quote:

The tally would appear to be: Women are smart, principled, professional, cordial—and dull. Men are conniving, crude, backbiting—and lively.

Although her anecdotes are lively, Loh's analysis never really gets too far below the surface. But her contention that some fundamental differences divide men and women deserves serious attention. A new online library of laws that prescribe different treatment of women in business provides the foundation for this kind of attention. Released jointly by the World Bank and IFC, this new library of laws covers 181 countries. (For a bit of background, check out the press release.) The library contains over 900 such laws and regulations - what kind of justification do governments have in mind for all of this?

I decided to play around with the library a bit to see what interesting factoids I could generate:

  • There are exactly two countries that have laws that fall under the rubric of male relative consent (out of the 181 covered). Can you guess which two?
  • On the other end of the spectrum, there are 32 countries/economies that have regulations or laws providing for equal pay between men and women.
  • As far as I could tell, Norway has the most liberal parental leave policy in the world:

"1) Parents shall be entitled to leave of absence pursuant to the provisions of this section and of sections 12-2 and 12-4 for a total of 12 months. When parental benefits are paid by the National Insurance, parents shall be entitled to leave of absence regardless.

(2) In addition to leave of absence pursuant to the first paragraph, each of the parents is entitled to leave of absence for up to 12 months for each child. This leave must be taken immediately after the parents’ leave of absence pursuant to the first paragraph. An employee who has partial leave of absence pursuant to section 12-6 is nevertheless not entitled to leave of absence pursuant to this paragraph."

Maybe it's time to move to Norway...


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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