By Laura Cofsky

 

It’s 2012, and “women’s rights” are still considered a separate, exclusive concept. That’s an issue. Yet, one reason we need to take them seriously—beyond the fact that women’s rights are human rights—is that the current lack of women’s rights across the world can negatively affect the global economy.

Studies show that there are tangible benefits to adding women to the workforce. For instance, Booz and Company found that if women’s employment rates were to match men’s, it would increase U.S. Gross Domestic Product by 5% and that of developing countries by 34%.

Over the next decade, some estimates say that women are expected to have at least the same impact on the economy as China.[1] Others show that women will have the same impact on the global economy as both India and China combined.[2] This is because if women around the world were allowed to exercise their economic potential, then one billion minds and bodies would be added to the international workforce.[3]

Furthermore, World Bank predicts that women’s earning power could double the GDP for developing countries like China and India by 2014. This is significant—they are two of the world’s emerging super powers

Here in the U.S., the statistics are less than encouraging. Just as many women as men have a college diploma, and slightly more possess a high school diploma. However, of the Fortune 500 companies only 12 have female CEOs, and experts still argue that women make 77 cents on the dollar. [4]

But perhaps most importantly, women are more likely to put their income back into their communities, lowering both illiteracy and mortality rates. And they’re excellent savers, according to one statistic: “For every one percentage point increase in the share of household income generated by women, overall savings increased by roughly 15 base points.”[5]

Some companies have taken the issue into their own hands. Avon, for instance, has given 6 million women in 100 countries the opportunity to start their own businesses. And Coca-Cola announced their 5 by 20 program, which aims to support 5 million female entrepreneurs by 2020.[6]

2020 is also when we could see a 14 percent rise in per capita income in several APEC economies—such as China, Russia, Indonesia and Korea—if women in these countries are encouraged and enabled to enter the workforce.[7]

The irony is that, when there’s an economic crisis like our current recession, women tend to take the brunt of the problem. World Savvy Monitor reports that government stimulus packages tend to focus funding on infrastructure and green jobs. According to some studies, women would only account for 12% of these jobs, although women are 51% of the world’s population.

On top of that, budget-cutting will affect fields like education, health care, and other public services. These are fields traditionally filled by women. Other jobs—such as those that are categorized as unskilled labor—are also hit hard during economic crises. Women are more likely to work these jobs as well.[8]

It is astounding that 51% of the world—which is, in fact, a slight majority—can still be so powerless. What’s also amazing is that, in an economy that’s struggling and needs as many skilled hands and bright minds as possible, we’re still fighting to get more workers into factories and onto farm and more leaders in government and on trading room floors. Right now, we need to address this disparity, and hopefully, someday, we won’t have to.

 

Laura Cofsky is a senior studying English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, she hopes to become a journalist.


[1] Brooke, Beth. “Why Women Will Impact Global Economy as Much as China.”  CNN. 25 October 2012. http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/25/opinion/beth-brooke-women-leaders/index.html

[2] Verveer, Melanne and Kim Azzarelli. “Why the Global Economy Needs Businesses to Invest in Women.” The Daily Beast. 30 January 2012. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/29/why-the-global-economy-needs-to-businesses-to-invest-in-women.html

[3] Brooke, Beth. “Why Women Will Impact Global Economy as Much as China.”  CNN. 25 October 2012. http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/25/opinion/beth-brooke-women-leaders/index.html

[4] “Women’s Impact on the Economy, By the Numbers.” ThinkProgress. 8 March 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/03/08/440639/international-womens-day-economy-numbers/?mobile=nc

[5] “Background Briefing on Women in the Global Economy.” U.S. Department of State. 15 September 2011. http://www.state.gov/s/gwi/rls/rem/2011/172538.htm

[6] Verveer, Melanne and Kim Azzarelli. “Why the Global Economy Needs Businesses to Invest in Women.” The Daily Beast. 30 January 2012. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/29/why-the-global-economy-needs-to-businesses-to-invest-in-women.html

[7] “Background Briefing on Women in the Global Economy.” U.S. Department of State. 15 September 2011. http://www.state.gov/s/gwi/rls/rem/2011/172538.htm

[8] “How is the Current Global Economic Crisis Expected to Affect Women?” World Savvy Monitor. 9 May 2009.

http://worldsavvy.org/monitor/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=562&Itemid=1009

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