Overview

  • 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, forced migration, and pandemics to the global jobscrisis—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 as 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. In education, enrollment has increased, but completion remains a challenge at the secondary level for both girls and boys, albeit for different reasons. Limited educational opportunities for girls cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings.

    Globally, women’s labor force participation fell from 51% in 2000 to 49% in 2018; women devote 1 to 5 hours more a day to unpaid domestic and child care and/or other family care work, and 1 to 6 hours a day less to market activities than men,.

    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.

    Globally, International Labor Organization data show women earn about 20 percent less than men. Women in all countries face earnings gaps: countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth due to differences in lifetime earnings between men and women.

    Over the past decade, in 131 economies there have been 274 reforms to laws and regulations, leading to an increase in gender equality. This includes 35 economies that have implemented laws on workplace sexual harassment, protecting nearly two billion more women than a decade ago.  However, many laws and regulations continue to prevent women from entering the workforce or starting a business; discrimination can have lasting effects on women’s economic inclusion and labor force participation.

    The IFC estimates a $1.5 trillion annual credit deficit for women-owned small and medium enterprises. Women are 10% less likely to have an account with a financial institution or mobile banking than men, and the gap is larger in poorer countries.

    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.

    Last Updated: Apr 09, 2019

  • The World Bank Group’s Gender Equality Strategy focuses on taking multipronged actions to 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.    Close remaining gender gaps including girls’ completion of secondary schooling and boys’ drop-out rates, and in health.

    2.    Remove constraints to more and better jobs for women, focusing on safe transport to and from work, child and other family care, training in the digital and technology skills required to compete for jobs and access economic opportunities, 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: Apr 09, 2019

  • 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

    The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) announced its first round of funding allocations of $120m in April 2018 to tackle challenges women entrepreneurs face across the developing world. We-Fi’s second call for proposals closed in February 2019, and allocations are expected in April. 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 and improving opportunities for women and girls in conflict and crisis situations. The Bank is the largest contributor, committing to US$2 billion supporting projects in fragile and refugee settings. Among the funding already allocated, in the Central African Republic, World Bank support means hospitals and health centers in five districts now offer survivors of violence free essential treatment, counseling and help. That includes linking survivors to income-generating activities so they can gain economic independence. Based on the impact so far, the Government of the Central African Republic has decided to significantly invest in this program itself.

    Linking Women to Digital Opportunities

    The Afghanistan Digital CASA project addresses gender gaps in labor force participation, access to the internet, and in the labor force of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. This provides training to create new and better career opportunities for women in IT and related disciplines, which tend to be male-dominated as well as better remunerated. 

    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 helps countries transform how they invest in women, children and adolescents, especially family planning, reproductive and maternal health. It 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. New investors in 2018 included Burkina Faso, which has committed to allocating at least 15% of its annual budget to improve health, and Côte d'Ivoire, which has committed to increase its health budget by 15%. The GFF has helped the Democratic Republic of Congo improve women’s and children’s access to essential services and vaccinations, and Cameroon to double family planning and antenatal care visits.

    Last Updated: Apr 09, 2019


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In Depth

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The Little Data Book on Gender 2019

The Little Data Book on Gender 2019 illustrates the progress towards gender equality for 217 economies around the world.

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We-Fi Supports Women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan

Women-owned start-up Dot & Line is boosting childhood learning outcomes in Pakistan. 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