“Empowering women is smart economics”


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As World Bank Managing Director Caroline Anstey said in her remarks at last Thursday’s event on women in the private sector, women make up nearly 50 percent of the world’s population. Despite this, they are only 40.8 percent of the formal global labor market.  This gap represents a vast economic potential that could have the power to create jobs, drive economic growth and transform the global economy as we currently know it—shaky, stagnant and according to some of the data, in recession.

Unfortunately, women around the world continue to be deprived of economic opportunities. In some places, women are legally barred from working the same night hours as men. In many others, they are unable to get the financing they need to start—or grow—their businesses. And although education has been enshrined as a universal human right, young women continue to fight for their right to be educated so that they can become productive members of the economy—just last week, that fight almost turned fatal for one girl. The experiences that some women are lucky enough to take for granted—such as the opportunity to go to school, freely pursue a career and start a business if they wanted to—aren’t the norm.  In far too many places, women with opportunities are the exception.

Leaving women out of the economy is not just unfair and unjust, it’s also not smart economics. So how do we change things? A commitment to more equitable policies and legislation is one way. Education to give women the skills they need to get jobs is another. And women entrepreneurs who seek capital for their businesses could benefit from loan products that are customized to their needs.

Empowering women to become full economic citizens is a crucial part of the World Bank’s work. At the Annual Meetings in Tokyo last Thursday, distinguished panelists such as H.E. President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, World Bank President Jim Kim and CIDA President Margaret Biggs came together to talk about how we can pursue a path of economic growth that includes the world’s other half.  If you missed it, click here to tune in. And let us at @Worldbankpsd know what you think with hashtag #womenbiz.



Zia Morales

Communications Specialist

Join the Conversation

Judith Pryor
October 18, 2012

Zia, this is a great post and you are completely correct that empowering women is essential for human rights and a healthy economic system. Providing women with the education and entrepreneurial tools to succeed is essential to helping nations develop. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) also sees the importance of providing funding to women entrepreneurs. In 2006, OPIC agreed to provide a $100 million loan facility to Citi to help deepen funding for microfinance for the world’s poorest people. The commitment, which has since expanded to $350 million, has supported one million borrowers, 90% of whom were women. We hope this will help close the gap for women in business and create equal and better opportunities for all. http://www.opic.gov/blog/impact-investing/at-u-n-and-cgi-u-s-highlights…

Ji Won Park
October 16, 2012

Thank you Zia, for your article on the important issue of empowering women in order that we too are able to participate in, and make our unique contributions to, the economy. And in so doing, enables us to be good partners to men.