Countries Prosper When Women Succeed

March 5, 2014

March 8 marks International Women’s Day—known originally as International Working Women’s Day—and this year’s theme is, “Inspiring Change: Equality for Women Is Progress for All.”

It’s wonderful to set aside a day each year to consider women’s status around the world. But it’s even better to consider how to create more opportunities for women every day.

According to Catalyst’s latest report, Women in the World, women are missing from the economies of many regions across the globe—and countries are missing out on women’s talents.

Our report, which synthesizes data from a variety of global organizations and sources, shows that women’s advancement in several fundamental areas can have a powerful ripple effect. It’s essential for women to be as educated, as capable of earning money, and as in control of their physical lives as men—not just because it’s fair, but because empowering women raises everybody’s standard of living.

Research has found that increasing the proportion of women who are paid for their work to men’s levels could raise the gross domestic product (GDP) by 5% in the United States, 9% in Brazil and Japan, 11% in Italy, 12% in the United Arab Emirates, and 27% in India.

That’s huge—and it could mean a huge improvement in the quality of life in many countries.

Our new report examines three important global trends—shifting demographics, access to education, and progress toward equality—and reveals the impact of these trends on women and workforces across regions. It also identifies opportunities to transform the workplace by advancing women—and increasing prosperity in the process.

Take for instance the rapidly aging global population. Throughout many regions, the labor pool is shrinking as the population ages. This problem could be mitigated considerably by increasing women’s participation in the workforce.

Or let’s look at trends in global education. Though women have made enormous strides in education worldwide, men still enter the fields of science, engineering, manufacturing, construction, and agriculture at greater rates in most regions. Yet in many parts of the world, there’s a shortage of engineers and technicians. Just think of what could be achieved, particularly in developing countries, if more women entered STEM fields!

And then there’s the subject of women’s rights in general. Women have made incredible gains in the last 50 years, but by many measures, particularly in mature economies, progress has slowed or stalled. It’s appalling but true that there are still countries in which women are not permitted to drive, vote, own property, or even open a bank account in their own names. In Canada and the United States, women’s representation on corporate boards and in corporate leadership has been stagnant for years.

Governments and businesses have the power to stimulate economies by breaking these barriers—and now is the time to do it.

Imagine a world in which girls have the same educational opportunities as boys and women have the same economic and employment opportunities as men. More people would have access to technology and medicine, and fewer people would live in poverty. In short, the world would not only be fairer; it would be more habitable as well.

We can help create that world simply by opening more doors to women. Global transformation won’t come overnight—or on a single day—but it will come sooner than we think if we work together to make it happen.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.