• 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 boys, girls, men and women, differentially due to gender norms, roles, and responsibilities.   Less recognized is that women and girls have a unique role to play as drivers of growth and progress and powerful agents of change.

    Key facts:

    Historic human development gains have been made over the past 25 years, but serious challenges remain. About 830 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. Despite progress, developing countries account for 99 percent of global maternal deaths and the maternal mortality ratio in developing regions is 14 times higher than in developed regions.

    In education, only 23 percent of low-income countries have achieved gender parity at primary school level and 15 percent at secondary level. Girls enrollment is increasing, but attendance and completion remain a challenge, especially at secondary level for both girls and boys, albeit for different reasons.

    Globally, women’s labor force participation fell to 49 percent in 2016; women are more likely to work in the informal sector and spend at least twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work and care activities. As women are more likely than men to bear childcare responsibilities, lack of access to quality and affordable childcare is a major barrier to female labor force participation.

    Women in all countries face earnings gaps: countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth due to differences in lifetime earnings between women and men.

    Between 2015 and 2017, 65 economies made 87 legal reforms towards greater gender equality, ranging from Bulgaria, Kiribati and Poland eliminating all restrictions on women’s employment, to the Democratic Republic of Congo reforming its family code to allow married women to sign contracts, get jobs, open bank accounts and register businesses in the same way as married men.

    However, remaining economic, structural, social, and legal barriers can often hinder women’s economic opportunity.

    The credit gap for formal, women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises is estimated at about US$300 billion dollars globally. The gender gap in account ownership in developing economies has remained unchanged at 9 percent since 2011.

    Gender-based violence—perhaps the most extreme constraint on women’s voice and agency—remains a global epidemic, affecting more than one in three women over the course of a lifetime.

    Further, more than 2.7 billion women in 104 economies are restricted by laws preventing them from working in specific jobs, while 59 economies have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, and in 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working. 


    Last Updated: Sep 28, 2018

  • The Bank Group’s Gender Equality Strategy  focuses on tangible interventions that achieve 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 strategy sets out to help countries go the last mile in addressing challenges such as maternal mortality while taking aim at emerging challenges such as ageing populations, climate change, slowing economic growth, and the global jobs crisis. There are four key areas where countries can focus investments to ensure equal economic participation:

    1. Boost human capital by closing remaining gender gaps in education enrollment, attendance, and completion, as well as in maternal health
    2. Remove constraints to more and better jobs for women, focusing on safe transport to and from work, child and elder care, skills training, and reducing occupational sex segregation.
    3. Remove barriers to women’s ownership and control of productive assets like land and housing, and improve access to finance, technology and insurance services needed to make assets productive.
    4. Enhance women’s voice and agency, including by engaging men and boys, to tackle challenges related to child marriage, gender-based violence (GBV), social norms, and women’s participation in governance.

    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: Sep 28, 2018

  • 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:

    Unlocking the Potential of Women Entrepreneurs

    In partnership with 14 country governments and other MDBs, the WBG created the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), which mobilized more than $340M in grant finance and is expected to mobilize $4-5 in additional financing for every $1 of grant finance. We-Fi invests in projects that support women-led businesses, and works with governments to address the legal and regulatory barriers that stifle women entrepreneurs.

    Ensuring Girls in Conflict Situations Receive Education

    Canada, the EU, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the WBG are making the single largest investment in education for women and girls in conflict and crisis situations. The total investment, worth around US$3bn, aims to equip women and girls with the skills needed for the jobs of the future, improve training for teachers, improve the quality of available data on women’s and girls’ education; promote greater coordination between humanitarian and development partners; support innovative education methods, especially for vulnerable and hard to reach groups; and support developing countries in efforts to provide equal opportunities for girls to complete at least 12 years of quality education.

    Providing Smart, Scaled and Sustainable Financing

    The World Bank-administered Global Financing Facility (GFF) in support of Every Woman Every Child was launched in July 2015. The facility helps close the funding gap for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health, to provide smart, scaled and sustainable financing to accelerate efforts to end preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent deaths by 2030. The GFF offers an innovative model of financing in a new development era, with countries in the driver’s seat and bringing together multiple sources of financing in a synergistic way to support national priorities for women, children and adolescents. The GFF is an essential financing vehicle to accelerate and align support for country-led plans to scale up crucial health, nutrition and population services for all infants, women, and children. For example, in the DRC, where maternal mortality is high, at 846 deaths per 100,000 live births, the country’s investment case is prioritizing improving the coverage of quality and equitable reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services and strengthening health management systems.

    Creating Jobs for Women in Egypt

    The $300 million Promoting Innovation for Inclusive Financial Access Project has helped channel venture capital to start-ups and micro enterprises, with a special focus on women, youth, and other marginalized groups. Since 2014, the project has led to the creation of more than 273,000 jobs and provided financial support to more than 150,000 clients, including 64,000 women.

    Empowering Girls in Nigeria

    In June 2016, the WBG Board approved an additional $100 million credit from the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, IDA, for the Nigeria State Education Program Investment Project. It will contribute to the return of students—particularly girls—to schools in the northeastern states (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, and Taraba). The systems-focused project will incentivize skilled teachers to return to schools, and improve the learning environment. Many stakeholders will help identify out-of-school children, especially girls, and strategize on bringing them into school.


    Last Updated: Sep 28, 2018



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In Depth


We-Fi is Open for Business

We-Fi helps women in developing countries gain access to finance, markets and networks necessary to start and grow a business.

Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality

The UFGE is a multi-donor trust fund dedicated to strengthening awareness, knowledge, and capacity for gender-informed policy-making.

Women's Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises

The Women's Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises (WLSME) Trust Fund helps foster successful women-led enterprises in developing countries.

VAWG Resource Guide

The Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Resource Guide offers operational guidance for integrating prevention and response activities into development programs.

Adolescent Girls Initiative

The World Bank's Adolescent Girls Initiative is a public-private partnership that promotes the transition of young women from school to productive employment through innovative interventions.

Additional Resources

Contact Us

World Bank Group Gender
1818 H St. NW
Washington, DC 20433