Equality for women is progress for all – is this true?

6 March 2014

The slogan for this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March, is ‘Equality for women is progress for all’. What’s the evidence that this statement is true? Moira Jenkins investigates and suggests some ways to explore this issue.

Women repairing a road in Hanoi © World Bank - click to view on Flickr.comWell it seems only fair that women should be equal to men doesn’t it? But actually saying that it leads to progress for all (not just women), how true is that?

The World Bank recently published the 2013 World Development Report on Jobs, together with a companion report which looked specifically at Gender at Work.

The report found that “By virtually every global measure, women are more economically excluded than men”.

One statement that really got me thinking is this one:

“nearly four in 10 people globally (close to one-half in the developing countries) agree that, when jobs are scarce, men should have more right to jobs than women.

Do your pupils agree with this statement? Why or why not?

The report includes the following diagram, which shows how the proportion of men and women who agree with this statement varies in different parts of the world.

  • Why are there such differences in opinion?
  • What factors come into play?
  • How do you think these opinions have changed over time, and why?
Share of men and women who agree that, if jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job

One of the main messages to come out of the Gender at Work report is that gender equality in the workplace leads to far wider benefits:

  • A Goldman Sachs study estimated that narrowing the gender gap in employment could raise per capita income in emerging markets by up to 14% by 2020.
  • Jobs for women can have especially positive spillover effects on poverty reduction through greater spending on children’s health and education. A review of 15 studies found that increases in women’s earnings and bargaining power typically translate into greater spending on, and results for, children’s education and health. So women’s economic empowerment is associated with faster growth, and better economic, health, and educational outcomes for the next generation.
  • In places such as Latin America and the Caribbean, where women’s paid work has increased, this has contributed significantly to overall poverty reduction.

This diagram from the report aims to show how jobs for women can support overall economic development:

How closing the gender gap in employment supports development

So going back to my question at the top of the page, do you think that this report helps back up the statement ‘Equality for women is progress for all’?

The following links and resources can help you explore this issue further in class. (Do a quick view of the slideshows first to ensure they are all age-appropriate).

ActionAid: International Women’s Day (assembly/lesson starter and infographic for KS 2-4)

UN: International Women’s Day message 2014 (from Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon)

Gender (a selection of resources supporting the Global Learning Programme)

Fight Poverty, Educate Girls (our feature article exploring how girls’ education can slow down population growth, and reduce poverty)

Thomson-Reuters: International Women’s Day (slideshow)

World Bank: Working Women Snapshots from Around the World (slideshow)

Gender at Work, Emerging Messages (World Bank report summary, Oct 2013, PDF)

12 Women (And One Man) Who’ve Inspired Change (Marie Stopes International)

Global Dimension Website Editor Moira JenkinsMoira Jenkins is Digital Programme Manager at Think Global, and manages the Global Dimension website.

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