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Speeches & TranscriptsFebruary 21, 2023

Keynote Speech by Axel van Trotsenburg, Managing Director Operations at Empowering women to shape the future of jobs

(As Prepared For Delivery)


Thank you for joining us today for this critical discussion on “empowering women to shape the future of jobs”.  

This is the first global event for the Road to Marrakech for the World Bank-IMF Annual meetings this October.

We find ourselves in a time of unprecedented consensus on the value of gender equality to foster shared prosperity and build resilience, especially as economic transformations take place across the world, including in Morocco, our host country. The choice of this venue – full of talented young women and men - and this important theme is our way of saying - it is time to transform this consensus into concrete actions!

Gender gaps in labor force participation persist across all regions and have been especially high here in the Middle East and North Africa region. The economic cost of this gap is non-trivial: globally, if women’s employment were as much as men’s, economies stand to gain almost 20 percent in GDP per capita![1]

These gaps also affect how men and women are impacted by crises and their ability to benefit from new technology, digitization, structural transformation, and the green transition.

Skills and jobs identified as most relevant for the green economy tend to be male dominated, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In the United States, for instance, 60 percent of new occupations will be in male-dominated fields[2] while only a quarter of STEM workers are women.[3]

Unconscious biases, societal norms, lack of exposure to the sector, under-representation in leadership, and time and capital constraints are just some of the many factors holding women back.  

Acknowledging these constraints and gaps, the World Bank is investing in data and evidence on what works to boost women’s participation in STEM. It has been using that evidence to inform its lending operations, foster partnerships, and support policy dialogue.

Operationally, the Bank is leveraging its financing instruments and technical assistance to help client governments lift constraints faced by women in labor markets, including through digital technologies:

Here in Morocco,[4] we have a project that tackles obstacles to women’s financial and digital inclusion such as access to IDs, internet and digital wallets, and microfinance.

Through its strong partnerships with the development community, the Bank is making concerted efforts to translate evidence into action.

For example, the WePOWER initiative in South Asia is a vibrant professional network in the Energy and Power Sector that facilitates women's participation in energy projects through STEM awareness sessions, study tours, internships, and technical trainings– benefitting more than 28,000 women. 

Similarly, the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative – or We-Fi –  is enhancing women’s potential to benefit from technological and digital innovations through incubation programs, mentoring, and providing seed funding.

Finally, since 2019, the Mashreq Gender Facility has mobilized around $15 million to generate evidence and provide technical assistance to women. This work has helped inform governments as they devise crucial reforms on accessing finance, addressing GBV, and promoting childcare. Based on this success, we are launching another facility in the Maghreb region. success, we are launching another facility in the Maghreb region.

Reflecting on these rich experiences and the latest evidence, this year we will be updating the World Bank Group Gender Strategy, with a major focus on empowerment and leadership of women and girls.

All of these initiatives were made possible thanks to the unfaltering commitment of governments and development partners to close gender gaps.

Today we have two policymakers joining us to share solutions to enable women to thrive in jobs of the future. We look forward to learning from these distinguished speakers and continuing our work – together - to advance women’s empowerment.


[1] Based on estimates - from Pennings (2022) - derived using the Gender Employment Gap index (GEGI), which evaluates the gap between male and female employment as a share of total employment (among 15-64 year old population) and estimates that GDP per capita in the long run would be almost 20 percent higher if female employment were exogenously increased to be the same as men’s (other things equal).

[2] The Future of Women at Work (2019)

[4] The Financial and Digital Inclusion Project


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