The first Women’s Day was organized in 1909 to protest working conditions for women in New York City’s garment industry. It has since grown into a global movement to advance women’s equality, commemorated every year on International Women’s Day.
What was true more than a century ago holds true today: no country, organization or economy can achieve its potential without the full and equal participation of women and men. Eliminating barriers that discriminate against women not only leads to economic growth, it also benefits men and boys, families, businesses, and entire communities.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” fits our rapidly changing world. The technological and digital revolution has brought tremendous opportunities, but without equality of opportunity, people can quickly be left behind. March 8, International Women’s Day, challenges everyone to #BeBoldForChange to help forge a better working culture and a more inclusive, gender-equal world.
At the World Bank Group, we’re up for the challenge. We’ve accelerated our work in developing countries with a renewed focus on closing gender gaps in health, education and social protection; removing gender barriers to more and better jobs; knocking down obstacles that prevent women from owning land, homes, and other economic assets; and empowering women to shape their own lives and make their own decisions. We’ve also become the first international financial institution to reach the first level of certification for EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality), the leading global standard for gender equality in the workplace.
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, we’re taking it up another notch: The World Bank Group is now the first international financial institution to take the UNWomen’s “HeForShe” pledge, committing to a 50/50 gender balance within our senior management (vice presidents and above) by 2020, across our technical fields by 2022, and a second level of EDGE certification by 2020.
I’m proud to join the other “HeForShe” champions – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Emmanuel Faber, Global CEO of Danone; Andrew Wilson, Global CEO of Electronic Arts; and Giles York, Chief Constable of Sussex Police, U.K., among others. The diversity of this group – and the wide range of interests they represent – shows broad recognition that gender equality is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
G20 leaders have committed to bringing an additional 100 million women into the workforce by 2025. And business leaders around the world are upping their commitment to gender-equal workplaces. General Electric recently announced a commitment to “balance the equation” by having 20,000 women in STEM roles by 2020 and obtaining 50/50 representation in technical entry-level programs.
There is still much work to do to meet these goals. Particularly in the area of economic equality, there are too many barriers. In our report “Women, Business and the Law 2016: Getting to Equal,” World Bank economists identified 155 economies that have at least one law that limits women’s economic opportunity, 100 that put restrictions on the type of work women can do, and 18 that allow husbands to prevent their wives from working.
We’re making progress, but we need to move faster and be bolder. The World Economic Forum’s most recent measurement of the global gender gap found that progress toward economic equality peaked in 2013 and is slowing. If this trend continues, it would take 170 years to end economic disparity.
That’s too long. We have to take action. It’s time to #BeBoldForChange.