How Gender Balance Can Transform the Global Economy

“Forget China, India and the internet: economic growth is driven by women”, the Economist wrote in 2006 in an article titled A guide to womenomics. Over the past 10 years, the importance of gender equality to promote development, innovation and economic growth has been widely recognised. All over the world, political leaders, corporations and international organisations realised that sexism is not just wrong, but also expensive. Recent studies show that globally more and more women of all ages are entering paid jobs (as opposed to unpaid jobs in the household or in informal care), but on the whole, a wide gap remains between male and female employment numbers. Closing this gap is not just a way to increase GDP by making better use of women’s skills and the benefits of diversity. It is also an important milestone on the way to gender equality and more fairness. To reach this goal, several walls have to be overcome – most importantly, the fact that it is more difficult for women to translate their labour into paid work, and into higher incomes. Gender discrimination, in the form of social norms and patriarchal value systems are still at the root of the problem, and economists like Naila Kabeer are challenging this by promoting policies that advance education and the empowerment of women at the grassroots. A professor at the London School of Economics, Naila Kabeer has been engaged in teaching, research and policy advocacy in the field of gender and development for more than 25 years. Her work on violence against women, forced labour and poverty is mainly focused on South and South East Asia, but affect all regions of the developed and developing world alike. At Falling Walls, Naila demonstrates why gender equality will be key a condition for sustainable development – and how it can prepare the global economy for a more human-centred growth.

Naila Kabeer is a social economist specialised on topics of gender, poverty, labour markets and livelihoods and social exclusion, with a particular emphasis on South and South East Asia. She is Professor of Gender and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Having worked in an advisory capacity with the World Bank, UNDP, and the OECD, among others, she is now on the editorial boards of a number of journals and recently joined the boards of the Women’s Rights Program of the Open Society Foundations and the International Centre for Research on Women, Washington.

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