Thursday, 8 March 2007

An investment to last generations: gender balance

Today is International Women’s Day and is a good occasion to remind ourselves of poverty’s feminine face as noted in a recent article by the Economist. It is estimated that 70% of the world's poor are women. According to the UNFPA, worldwide, women on average earn slightly more than 50 per cent of what men are earning. Gender has been an important component in many development efforts, so much so that it is one of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

According to the 2006 MDG report, women represent an increasing share of the world’s labour force – over a third in all regions except Southern and Western Asia and Northern Africa. What makes gender particularly important is that gender inequality is one of the key issues that contribute to intergenerational poverty.

The issue is not one that is specific to poorer countries or for that matter to the poor. According to the UK Equal Opportunities Commission women are woefully underrepresented in the both private and public sectors—with only 117 among the 1130 directors in FTSE 100 boardrooms. US Census Bureau estimates that 14.1% of women in America live in poverty, compared with 11.1% of men.

Socio-cultural attitudes, employment policies, balancing work and family responsibilities are some of the many issues that impact gender inequality and areas in which the private sector can make a difference—one workplace at a time—impacting generations.

For more information on country specific progress on gender issues you can get data from World Bank’s gender database.

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