Empowering women for sustainable growth and resilience
We work with countries to empower and invest in women and girls. Over the past 10 years, there has been progress across several key areas, including lower rates of maternal mortality, increases in girls’ education, and stronger legal protections for women. Between 2012 and 2022, countries’ average index score in our flagship Women, Business, and the Law report increased by 6.4 points, reflecting gains for women in economic rights and representation; there are more women than ever before in national parliaments.
Yet critical challenges remain. Countries are facing myriad crises—all of which affect boys, girls, men, and women differently. These are often further compounded by discriminatory laws and policies, as well as by social norms around economic roles and responsibilities and by gender-based violence (GBV). The pandemic continues to exacerbate gender gaps, threatening a reversal of gains for women and girls in areas like human capital, economic empowerment, and voice and agency.
To improve development outcomes, countries need to accelerate progress on women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, girls’ education and skills for future jobs, and access to essential services, such as child care and sexual and reproductive health services. They also need to prevent and respond to GBV and its causes, particularly in countries affected by fragility and conflict. The Bank Group helps countries work toward these goals and make their economies more inclusive and resilient. This work is guided by our Gender Equality Strategy for 2016–23, which seeks to close gaps between men and women across four key pillars: human endowments (health, education, and social protection); jobs; assets; and voice and agency. And in January 2022, we launched a year-long #AccelerateEquality initiative to reflect on the progress made and lessons learned over the past 10 years.
We support the Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality, a multidonor trust fund that seeks to close gender gaps and empower women, men, girls, and boys. It finances global public goods to promote innovation and generate evidence for solutions that can be adapted by governments, development partners, and the private sector.
We help women participate in economic activity, including through measures to promote productive economic inclusion, such as training, coaching, and psychosocial interventions. We also support cash-for-work programs, greater child care support, agricultural extension services, and better access to financial and digital services, including credit and liquidity for women-led firms. In Serbia, we are supporting a project to boost growth and competitiveness by improving scientific research, entrepreneurship, and access to finance; more than half of the $1.3 million in grants that the project has awarded have gone to women. In Angola, we are helping address a large, rapidly growing population of out-of-school children and youth—particularly adolescent girls—by supporting a scholarship program for 900,000 youth, access to education for those who have dropped out, safer classrooms, and targeted health services. And our support for the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative unlocks financing and support systems for women-led and -owned businesses in developing countries.
We collect and curate data through the Gender Data Portal, which provides open access to sex-disaggregated data for over 900 indicators covering demography, education, health, economic activities, assets, leadership, GBV, and more. Our Gender Innovation Labs generate knowledge and evidence to promote gender equality, identifying gaps and testing solutions. In February 2022, we published research that looks at how forced displacement impacts the lives of women and men differently, increasing women’s risk of intimate partner violence and placing greater limits on their access to livelihood opportunities.
We launched the Breaking Barriers report, which focuses on ways to help women cross into more profitable sectors and improve their business performance. In East Asia and Pacific, we looked at child care interventions that maximize gains in women’s employment outcomes. In the Middle East and North Africa, we explored the constraints behind low female participation in Egypt’s labor force to inform policies that accelerate economic opportunities for the region’s women. And in South Asia, our Reshaping Norms report looks at how the region could redesign tax systems, increase competition, and challenge gender norms.
We work to prevent and respond to GBV with operations that support remote counseling services, educate parents on healthy relationships, address sexual harassment on public transport, train health workers to identify and refer cases, and strengthen data collection and referral mechanisms. In Tanzania, we are helping school management and teachers build their capacity to prevent and address GBV.
Women, Business, and the Law 2022
Women, Business, and the Law 2022 is the eighth edition of annual reports measuring the laws and regulations that affect women’s economic opportunity in 190 economies. By examining the economic decisions that women make throughout their working lives, as well as the pace of reform over the past 52 years, this report contributes to research and policy discussions about women’s economic empowerment. It presents eight indicators structured around women’s interactions with the law as they move through their lives and careers: mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pension.
This edition builds evidence of the links between legal gender equality and women’s economic inclusion, identifies barriers to women’s economic participation, and encourages reform of discriminatory laws. It includes a new 95-country pilot survey of laws governing child care, a critical form of support needed for women to succeed in paid employment. For the first time, it also explores not just laws and regulations on paper, but how the law is being implemented in 25 economies. This highlights that laws alone are often not enough to improve gender equality. Important factors include their implementation and enforcement, as well as social, cultural, and religious norms.