Archive for June 2015

Improving womens’ role in workplaces

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) believes that if workforce participation between men and women were more equal, worldwide gross domestic product (GDP) would leap by 12% by 2030.

Improving womens’ role in workplacesPlans to improve womens’ role in the workplaceWhen German Chancellor Angela Merkel set out her plans for more vocational training for women in the developing world, at this week’s G7 summit of economic powers, she was preaching to the converted.

US President Barack Obama has said it himself  “When women succeed, nations are more safe, more secure and more prosperous.”

That sums up a realisation that has dawned on the development community in the past 10 years- that focusing policies on women and girls benefits not only them, but also whole countries and even the world.

It has always made sense to focus on women- simply because they are disproportionately affected by global poverty, violence and corruption. Two thirds of the world’s illiterate people are women. The original Millennium Development Goals made girls’ education and maternal health two of the main priorities.

Big strides have been made in both areas since 2000 – though it is worth remembering there are still as many girls out of primary school in Ethiopia as there are in primary school in Britain.

Now we are moving into a different phase, where policy-makers are turning their attention to another agenda beyond schooling – how to empower women economically. That’s why other powerful women are joining in Mrs Merkel’s call to close the workforce gender gap.

It’s also that women are more likely to be in insecure jobs, making them more vulnerable to economic shocks. They might face tougher legal barriers too – laws in more than 100 countries still curtail women’s roles in the economy.

Experts say these policies have had a transformational effect in letting women thrive economically and helping them to pull their families out of poverty.

The World Bank believes that if the gender gap in agriculture across the world was closed, the number of people who go hungry could be reduced by 100 to 150 million.

Technology will also be key in bringing more women into the workforce and unleashing their full potential.

At the moment, a woman is 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man (in Africa it’s 23%; in the Middle East it’s 24% and in South Asia it’s 37%).

Access to a mobile phone can make a big difference. This matters because countries such as Kenya – with its M-PESA system – have a good story to tell about the revolutionary power of mobile phone banking.

If more women own phones in the coming years, it stands to reason that more of them will be able to start their own businesses or learn about market prices.

Putting women in greater control of household finances has a virtuous knock-on effect too, as they are on the whole better than men at investing money in their family’s education and healthcare.

That’s why the UN development goals for the next 15 years specifically look at the need to improve women’s access to the internet and new methods of communication.

And yet for all the G7 talk of empowering women and “fostering female entrepreneurship”, it still means very little in some of the world’s poorest communities.