The Slow March to Gender Parity

BERKELEY – Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, recently warned that the world risks a new “mediocre normal” of slower growth. She is not alone in her concern.

Economic policymakers around the world are looking for ways to boost growth, with infrastructure investment topping most lists. But, as Lagarde regularly reminds her audiences, another, often-overlooked remedy is to increase the economic participation and advancement of women.

Women account for half of the global labor supply and about 70% of the world’s consumption demand. Yet there remains a long way to go in realizing their economic potential, as the World Economic Forum’s just-released Global Gender Gap Report 2014 confirms.

In many countries, both developed and developing, men and women are at or near parity when it comes to education and health, according to the report, which covers 142 countries and 94% of the world’s population. But, as the attack on the heroic Pakistani schoolgirl and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai demonstrated, girls and women are still blocked from education in many places, sometimes through violence.