Women! Yes, women! They are very important to the prosperity of the world. Countless research papers have been written discussing how the many problems that women face in the world limit how much they can contribute to the prosperity of the world. It is a no-brainer that the gender that makes up half of the world has so much to offer when there are no impediments stopping them.
In this article, I hope to share why women are important to the prosperity of the world, some of the problems limiting them and how we can all play our part in making sure we have a better world. Many of the points in this article are from research carried out by prestigious institutions like the UN & Mckinsey.
The Importance of Women To World Prosperity
According to data gotten from the World Bank, women make up about 49.58% of the world population. This McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report mentions that gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. If women who account for half the world’s working-age population do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer.
According to Statista, the most recent (2019) global GDP is about $87.55 Trillion and this can increase by $12 Trillion by 2025 if, according to MGI, every country matched the progress toward gender parity of its fastest-improving neighbour. In a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as $28 Trillion, or 26%, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025. MGI’s full-potential estimate is about double the average estimate of other recent studies, reflecting the fact that MGI has taken a more comprehensive view of gender inequality in work.
From this, we can deduce that a woman who’s as empowered as a man in today’s world can contribute immensely to the prosperity of their country and the world as a whole.
This UN Women Facts & Figures article explains how women’s economic empowerment includes women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets; their access to and control over productive resources, access to decent work, control over their own time, lives and bodies; and increased voice, agency and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels from the household to international institutions.
It also explains how women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes; according to this report by the International Monetary Fund.
What’s Limiting Women?
There are a lot of factors limiting how much value women are able to contribute to the prosperity of the world. Here are some of them:
- Laws & Policies
In many countries, different laws and policies make it difficult for women to achieve their potential. This is even worse in countries where there is little or no political representation for women. In this research paper by the World Bank, it states that over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. Of 189 economies assessed in 2018, 104 economies still have laws preventing women from working in specific jobs, 59 economies have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, and in 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working.
According to UNESCO, there are about 258 million children and youth are out of school, for the school year that ended in 2018. The total includes 59 million children of primary school age, 62 million of lower secondary school age and 138 million of upper secondary age.
UNICEF tells us that out of 258 Million children & youth out of school, girls make up over 132 Million (51.2%) of this number. Investing in girls’ education transforms communities, countries and the entire world. Girls who receive an education are less likely to marry young and more likely to lead healthy, productive lives. They earn higher incomes, participate in the decisions that most affect them, and build better futures for themselves and their families.
- Labour Market, Pay Disparity & Unemployment
In a lot of countries, it is hard for women to get jobs compared to men. In fact, it is harder for women to get senior positions than men. Based on this report by UN Women, the labour force participation rate for women aged 25-54 is 63% compared to 94% for men. Also, the gender wage gap is estimated to be 23%. This means that women earn 77% of what men earn, though these figures understate the real extent of gender pay gaps, particularly in developing countries where informal self-employment is prevalent.
In this study by Damian Grimshaw and Jill Rubery of the International Labour Office, they stated that women also face the motherhood wage penalty, which increases as the number of children a woman has increases.
Also, women are more likely to be unemployed than men. In 2017, global unemployment rates for men and women stood at 5.5% and 6.2% respectively. This is projected to remain relatively unchanged going into 2018 and through 2021. This is according to a study by the International Labour Office.
- Financial & Digital Inclusion
A lot of women are excluded from financial systems in the world. According to this research by the World Bank in 2015, women are less likely than men to have access to financial institutions or have a bank account. While 65% of men report having an account at a formal financial institution, only 58% of women do worldwide. According to Enhancing Financial Inclusion and Access (EFInA) 2018 Access To Financial Services report, 40.9% of Nigerian women are financially excluded.
Also, the digital divide remains a gendered one. According to this UN report, the majority of the 3.9 billion people who are offline are in rural areas, poorer, less educated and tend to be women and girls.
The world is advancing technologically at an insane speed, this has led to the birth of so many opportunities to make wealth on the internet. We have seen people become stars through social media, people are starting online businesses and serving their customers remotely across the world. In fact, the Flutterwave Store has helped over 20000 people become business owners with an online store where customers can see and purchase products they want.
The more women are digitally included, the more the world stands to gain from it.
- Unpaid Care & Domestic Work
It’s no lie that women bear disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work. According to this International Labour Office report, women tend to spend around 2.5 times more time on unpaid care and domestic work than men. The amount of time devoted to unpaid care work negatively correlates with female labour force participation, according to this study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Unpaid care work is essential to the functioning of the economy, but often goes uncounted and unrecognized. In this report by the United Nations Research Institute For Social Development (UNRISD), it is estimated that if women’s unpaid work were assigned a monetary value, it would constitute between 10% and 39% of GDP.
How Can Women Become More Prosperous?
We have seen that women are important to the prosperity of the world and we’ve also seen some of the many challenges fighting to make sure they remain poor. To make this work, it needs combined efforts from governments and the private sector. According to this McKinsey Global Institute report, here are some ways women can become more prosperous:
1. Invest In Women
We have to be more interested in investing in women across the world. We have to start from when they are girls till when they become women and still continue investing in them. We need to:
- Educate the girl child by funding and creating an enabling environment.
- Help women learn valuable skills.
- Equip women with financial, legal & digital literacy.
- Invest in the health of women by improving healthcare systems.
2. Create Economic Opportunities
Women need economic opportunities if countries are to realize the full potential of their human capital. Creating pathways for African women—the vast majority of whom work informally—into better-paid and more fulfilling jobs is a major priority. We need to:
- Put in place formal mentorship and sponsorship programs for women.
- Create a positive, inclusive, and supportive environment for women.
- Unlock opportunities for women-owned businesses, especially funding.
- Employ women and pay them what they are worth.
Flutterwave just announced our annual International Women’s Day grant where 7 women-led businesses in Africa will receive $2500 each for their business, with training and mentoring from business leaders. You can learn more about it & apply here.
3. Leverage Technology
Digital and internet technology is changing the world and can be the lever that opens many doors to women, helping to overcome current challenges on a number of indicators of gender equality. We need to:
- Create women-friendly products to drive digital inclusion.
- Train women and help them build valuable digital skills.
- Spread the use of technology to raise financial inclusion and empower female entrepreneurs.
4. Change Of Mindset
Arguably any drive toward gender parity starts with efforts to change entrenched and widespread mindsets about women’s role in society, an extremely difficult and complex challenge that will require all stakeholders to play a part that is sustained over the long term. We need to:
- Run campaigns and advocacy that educate people about women’s role in society.
- Collaboration between governments and private organisations to champion women causes.
5. Enforce Law, Policies and Regulations
This is perhaps the most important way we can improve the lives of women in the world. Governments across the world need to ensure that women’s rights are enshrined in law and enforced by authorities. Governments need to:
- Institute and enforce legal rights.
- Create enabling policies and regulations that drive progress toward gender equality.
In conclusion, if half of the world’s population is more supported to achieve their economic potential, the world will be better for it. Let’s all put our hands together, as private individuals, companies and governments, to make sure women are more empowered to build wealth.