• The World Bank Group works with public- and private-sector clients to close gaps between males and females globally for lasting impact in tackling poverty and driving sustainable economic growth that benefits all. In the last two decades, the world has narrowed the divide between men and women, especially in primary education and health. Yet critical gaps remain. Major challenges—from climate change to forced migration, pandemics, or the global jobs crisis—affect women and girls in specific ways. Yet they also have a unique role to play as drivers of growth and progress and powerful agents of change.

    Gender norms and stereotypes constrain the opportunities of both women and men, girls and boys, through different pathways. Most inequalities based on gender have historically put females at a disadvantage. Yet in some domains, reverse gender gaps are appearing, such as in male mortality in some European and Central Asian countries and male school dropout rates in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

    Key facts:

    Despite some significant gains, an estimated 62 million girls globally are out of school. Only 23 percent of low-income countries have achieved gender parity at primary level and 15 percent at secondary level. In contrast, 79 percent of middle- and high-income countries have achieved parity at primary level and 41 percent at secondary level. But issues of learning and quality of services remain, and in some regions, reverse gender gaps—whereby males are disadvantaged—are appearing at secondary and tertiary levels.

    Globally, women’s labor force participation has stagnated and indeed fallen from 57 percent in 1990 to 55 percent in 2013. Women remain half as likely as men to have full-time wage jobs. Those who have paid work earn up to one-third less than men, partly as a result of occupational sex segregation. Women are more likely to engage in low-productivity work and work in informal sector, and they spend at least twice as much time on unpaid domestic work and care activities as men; they contribute significant unpaid work, about 58 percent, to family enterprises and farms.

    Across the world, women are overrepresented in education and health; equally represented in social sciences, business, and law; and underrepresented in engineering, manufacturing, construction, and science. As with enrollment and completion, these choices matter because they translate into gender differences in employment, productivity, and earnings. 

    The credit gap for formal women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises is estimated at about US$300 billion dollars globally. Nor is the gender gap in account ownership closing: In 2011, 47 percent of women and 54 percent of men had an account; in 2014, 58 percent of women had an account, compared to 65 percent of men—a 7 percent gap.

    In many countries, women face legal and social barriers that prevent them from owning or inheriting assets, opening bank accounts, or accessing credit on their own. In 2013, 76 countries had laws on the books against domestic violence, up from 13 in 1995. Yet gender-based violence—perhaps the most extreme constraint on voice and agency—remains a global epidemic, affecting more than one in three women over the course of a lifetime. Women also hold roughly twice as many parliamentary seats as they did about 20 years ago, but that’s still only about 22 percent of seats globally.


    Last Updated: Apr 05, 2016

  • In 2016, the Bank Group has begun implementing its new Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2023, following consultations with more than 1,000 stakeholders in 22 countries. The new strategy charts an ambitious course by focusing on tangible interventions that reach real-world results, by identifying and implementing operations that narrow opportunity and outcome gaps between males and females. It aims further to address constraints cited in many economies as impediments to closing these gaps: occupational sex segregation, with women and girls often streamed into lower-paying, less secure fields of study and work; lack of safe, affordable transportation; and inadequate investment in and prioritization of care services across the life cycle, from early childhood to old age.

    The new strategy aims further to help countries go the last mile in addressing such as maternal mortality while taking aim at emerging challenges such as ageing populations, climate change, slowing economic growth, and the global jobs crisis. It focuses on four key areas:

    1. Improving human endowments—through health, education, and social protection services and programs;
    2. Removing constraints for more and better jobs—including tackling skills gaps and occupational sex segregation and addressing issues related to unpaid care
    3. Removing barriers to women’s ownership and control of physical and financial assets (land, housing, technology, finance);
    4. Enhancing women’s voice and agency—their ability to make themselves heard and exert decisive control over key aspects of their own lives—and engaging men and boys.

    IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, provides investment and advisory services to promote business opportunities for women in the private sector, which accounts for an overwhelming majority of jobs in developing and emerging economies. IFC aims to increase women's access to finance and markets, help clients improve work opportunities and conditions for female employees, support training for women entrepreneurs, and improve corporate governance—including the appointment of women to clients' boards.



    Last Updated: Apr 05, 2016

  • The World Bank Group’s key corporate targets are on track, while our new goals heighten attention to gender and put greater emphasis on impact and results. The majority of our operations and strategies now take gender equality into account in analysis, content, and monitoring and evaluation of our work.

    Some Examples:

    Safe, Smart Transport in Brazil

    A US$500 million loan from the World Bank Group has helped upgrade urban transport in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area through a cutting-edge, gender-smart approach that takes a broad range of needs and concerns into consideration. The project, updating and connecting Rio’s sprawling transport network, not only increases workers’ mobility and access to good jobs—a vital step on the path out of poverty; its design also took into account gender-based violence and women's need for easily accessible legal, social, health, and childcare services. All stations now have women’s restrooms and improved lighting for safety. Several major stations also house women’s police stations, family courts, childcare centers, and legal, medical, and counseling services for those affected by gender-based violence, as well as more than 100 electronic information kiosks with information about gender-based violence and how to address it. The project, in one of Brazil’s most urbanized and densely populated states, aims to benefit more than 11 million people. 

    Supporting Survivors of Violence in the Great Lakes Region

    In 2014, WBG Executive Directors approved US$107 million in financial grants to Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to provide integrated health and counseling services, legal aid, and economic opportunities to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The project also aims to strengthen health services for poor and vulnerable women in Africa’s Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Emergency SGBV and Women's Health Project is the first World Bank project in Africa with a major focus on offering  integrated services to SGBV survivors. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, an intergovernmental organization with 12 member states, is receiving support to further adopt a regional policy response to SGBV. The project is also expanding access to much-needed maternal and reproductive health services in the DRC and Burundi. Project grants, financed by the International Development Association (IDA), the WBG fund for the poorest countries, is expected to benefit more than 641,000 women and girls, of whom half a million live in the DRC.

    Last Updated: Sep 08, 2015


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In Depth


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