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The World Bank Group and International Women's Day

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World Bank Group President David Malpass visits a school in Jericho. World Bank Group President David Malpass visiting a classroom.

Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, I want to share an update on the World Bank Group’s work on gender.

Addressing critical gender gaps, including female labor force participation, offers an opportunity to boost incomes and stimulate growth. Research from the World Bank has repeatedly made clear that accelerating gender equality can generate significant economic gains.

The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2023 report, published last week, shows that 2.4 billion women of working age do not have fully equal economic opportunity. In 2022, only 34 gender-related legal reforms were recorded across 18 economies—the lowest number since 2001. It is important that the pace of legal reforms accelerates.

The World Bank Group’s own commitment to gender equality has increased in ambition over time. Gender and Development has been an IDA Special Theme since IDA16, recognizing that reducing gender disparities is essential for reducing poverty. In IDA20, the number of gender policy commitments has increased from six to eight, with ambitious targets in areas including economic inclusion, gender-based violence prevention, and childcare.

Entrepreneurship offers an important path to empowerment. The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), based at the World Bank, is supporting tens of thousands of women entrepreneurs, with more than $1.2 billion of financing to date. And the International Finance Corporation is working with private sector clients to promote women’s entrepreneurship and advance economic inclusion in the workplace.

Across the World Bank Group and with partners, clients and donors, there is much work underway that aims to address gender disparities – including the ID4D initiative that works to close gender gaps in financial inclusion, efforts to reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence, and Gender Innovation Labs in AfricaEast Asia and the PacificLatin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia, that undertake impact evaluations to generate more evidence on how to close gender gaps. 

Most importantly, the World Bank Group is integrating gender in our operations worldwide. The share of World Bank projects and IFC investments that help to close specific gender gaps has increased strongly and steadily.

At the World Bank Group, we continue to hold ourselves accountable for progress on achieving more gender-inclusive recruitment, promotion, leadership development, and mentoring programs; diverse candidate pools and interview panels; enhanced career development and learning opportunities; and greater opportunities for work-life balance. Today, women account for 53.5% of our workforce, and 43% of management—a share that has grown significantly.

There is much work ahead, and International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to galvanize attention and to restate our commitment to closing disparities between men and women—which is in the interests of everyone.


David Malpass

Former President, World Bank Group

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