We are moving closer to gender equality each day, yet a gap still exists between the increasing opportunities available to women, and their ability to seize those opportunities.
The key to development and growth lies in our ability to equally engage women and girls in society, in economies, and in decision-making processes. The World Bank calls investing in women “smart economics” because it creates a high rate of return. Women reinvest more of their income back into their families, spending money on food, health, and education.
Progress is being made in the realm of equipping women with access to education and financial programs, and the benefits provided by those services are necessary for the betterment of women’s lives and continued economic growth. Yet despite recent gains, gender inequality remains one of the biggest barriers to development. Women make up only 19 percent of parliament globally, own less than 2 percent of land in the developing world, and in Sub-Saharan Africa women hold only one-third of paid jobs outside of agriculture. Even in Rwanda, a country known for having a majority female parliament, only about 8% of local leadership roles are filled by women. Yet according to the Poverty Action Lab’s randomized trial on women in local leadership, “a world run by women would look decidedly different, and for whatever reason, women leaders do seem to better represent the needs of women.”
In order to see accelerated progress toward gender equality, we need to build women’s leadership at all levels – from parliament, to the workplace, to village councils.