The Female Economy

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, women own roughly 35% of small and medium-size enterprises in developing countries, and make up approximately 40% of the global workforce. Women’s consumer spending is projected to reach $28 trillion globally in 2014. And women contribute to their societies by investing their earnings in health, education, and family. Indeed, when it comes to women’s economic value, the numbers speak for themselves.

And yet recent research by the World Bank Group documented discrepancies between treatment of women and men in 102 of 141 countries surveyed – policies and practices that severely limit women’s economic opportunities. For example, in many countries, husbands are required to sign off on their wives’ business transactions. And women in developing countries are more likely to work in an inefficient informal economy; to be prevented by discriminatory laws from owning land; and to face bias in establishing, developing, and financing their own businesses.

Gender-based barriers to investment not only put women at a disadvantage; they also reduce the entire economy’s growth potential. Indeed, eliminating such barriers could raise labor productivity an estimated 25% in some countries. Moreover, the world’s most competitive industries are those with the narrowest earnings gap between women and men.

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