Empowering Women is Critical for World’s Economy, Says Lagarde

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Christine Lagarde

By Ugo Aliogo

On March 8 the world will mark International Women’s Day, which provides an opportunity to reflect on the struggle for greater gender equality.

The roots of the annual event dates back more than a century, yet its focus on respect and opportunities for women remains strikingly relevant today from sexual harassment and violence to unequal laws and unfairness in the workplace, where women are too often under employed, underpaid, and under promoted.

According to statement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), signed by Managing Director, IMF, Christine Lagarde, the unfair treatment can marginalise women and hinder their participation as productive individuals contributing to society and the economy in invaluable ways.

The statement also noted that there was need to consider the rich tapestry of organisations and individuals who can make a difference to ensure women have equal opportunities, I also see a crucial role for policymakers.
“They can use their positions to design policies that help women and girls access what they need for a fulfilling life—including education, health services, safe transportation, legal protection against harassment, finance, and flexible working arrangements,” the statement noted.

Lagarde noted that the IMF had recommended those kinds of policy measures to its member countries and works with many governments to examine how policies affect women.

She explained that in recent years the IMF have increased its emphasis on women’s empowerment precisely, adding that beyond the important ethical considerations, “it also represents a missed opportunity in the pursuit of macroeconomic stability and inclusive growth where the IMF’s expertise lies.”

According to the statement: “Our research has shown, for example, that if women’s employment equalled men’s, economies would be more resilient and economic growth would be higher.

“Our new estimates show that, for the bottom half of countries in our sample in terms of gender inequality, closing the gender gap in employment could increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by an average of 35 percent of which 7–8 percentage points are productivity gains due to gender diversity. Adding one more woman in a firm’s senior management or corporate board while keeping the size of the board unchanged is associated with an 8–13 basis point higher return on assets.

“If banks and financial supervisors increased the share of women in senior positions, the banking sector would be more stable too. The IMF’s 189 member countries face many different challenges, but empowering women remains a common denominator and a global imperative for all those who care about fairness and diversity, but also productivity and growth of societies and economies that are more inclusive. If we can achieve this, we all gain.”