According to the IFC Job Study, women comprise 49.6 percent of the world’s population, but make up only 40.8 percent of the formal global labor market. While globally inequality between men and women in education has been shrinking, women are still less likely to be educated. These gender imbalances, primarily represented by education and employment, have been coined as “the Gender Gap”. Before one can address this unfortunate social issue, the magnitude of potential positive change and the barriers to eliminate the issue must be understood.
A research report conducted by Goldman Sachs indicated that if Australia were to reconcile its Gender Gap (hire as many women as men), its GDP could increase by 11 percent. Conducting the same analysis for other major nations suggests that US GDP could be boosted by as much as 10 percent, Eurozone GDP by 14 percent and Japanese GDP by 21 percent. These projections are based on women’s contributions as more efficient laborers, as well as a simple increase in laborers.
Empirical evidence indicates that female employment has a positive impact on a company’s productivity and society’s well-being. In a recent case study, Oderbrecht’s, a Brazilian engineering, construction and chemicals group, newly acquired female-led team performed tasks 35 percent faster than teams with a majority of male workers. Additionally, employed women are more inclined to help their families and communities out of poverty. According to the IFC Jobs Study, women-headed households were found to reinvest up to 90 percent of their income into their families, compared to 30-40 percent contributed by men. By investing in their children, women are helping to create a more productive future generation.
The barriers that stand in the way of progress toward reconciling the Gender Gap can be categorized as legislative, cultural and financial.
- Government Difficulties: In many developing nations, government instability makes implementing new policies and adapting old policies very difficult. Further in 102 of 141 economies, there already exists at least one legal difference between men and women that could hinder women’s economic opportunities – IFC Job Study.
- Cultural Norms: Much of the world still holds traditional views when it comes to women’s roles. Some cultures require permission from a husband to work; others don’t allow women to work outside of the home at all – IFC Job Study.
- Financial Constraints: Women are more likely to lack access to finance. A study of 34 countries from Western Europe to East Asia showed that women were 5 percent less likely to receive a loan – IFC Job Study.
These barriers provide a clear direction for effectively addressing the seemingly perpetual Gender Gap. Over time, these barriers will diminish, especially where progress is intentionally encouraged. By supporting organizations and companies that implement gender-diversity hiring practices, as well as increasing awareness of the Gender Gap, we can help to eliminate it.