Oliver Wyman: Why We Must Unleash Women’s Economic Power

World Bank and Oliver Wyman are calling for women's economic power to be unleashed
Business consultancy Oliver Wyman is launching Representation Matters to help eliminate discrimination and give the economy a 20% GDP boost in 10 years

The Oliver Wyman Forum is launching an initiative that it hopes will contribute towards the fight for women’s equality – and give a 20% boost to the global economy.

The business consultancy is launching Representation Matters alongside WPL (Women Political Leaders) and Women, Business and the Law.

The project will conduct research into female representation in politics and its impact on legal and economic equality between women and men.

What was the catalyst?

The launch follows a World Bank Group report that found the global gender gap for women in the workplace is far wider than previously thought.

It says: “When legal differences involving violence and childcare are taken into account, women enjoy less than two-thirds the rights of men. No country provides equal opportunity for women – not even the wealthiest economies.”

The Women, Business and the Law report sets out the obstacles that women face in entering the global workforce and contributing to greater prosperity.

For the first time, Women, Business and the Law assesses the gap between legal reforms and actual outcomes for women in 190 economies.

It finds that, although laws on the books imply that women enjoy roughly two-thirds the rights of men, countries on average have established less than 40% of the systems needed for full implementation.

It adds: “For example, 98 economies have enacted legislation mandating equal pay for women for work of equal value. Yet only 35 economies have adopted pay-transparency measures or enforcement mechanisms to address the pay gap.”


Indermit Gill

Why it is urgent to act now

Oliver Wyman Forum says: “Imagine a policy objective that, if achieved, could double the world’s growth rate over a decade, raising countless millions out of poverty and extending opportunity around the globe.

“The objective is equal opportunity for women, with the World Bank estimating that eliminating discrimination against women could increase global GDP by 20% over the next decade.

“The scale of the impact could promote much-needed economic growth today and cultivate widespread prosperity across all levels of society.”

“It’s macro critical. It’s good not just for women but for society,” says RIshi Goyal, Deputy Director and Senior Adviser on Gender at the International Monetary Fund.

“Women have the power to turbocharge the sputtering global economy,” said Indermit Gill, Chief Economist of the World Bank Group and Senior Vice President for Development Economics

“Yet, all over the world, discriminatory laws and practices prevent women from working or starting businesses on an equal footing with men.

“Closing this gap could raise global gross domestic product by more than 20% – essentially doubling the global growth rate over the next decade – but reforms have slowed to a crawl.”

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Inequalities that run deep

Oliver Wyman says many governments “fail to provide the supporting frameworks and resources to enable women to actually exercise the rights they have in law.

“Nations with higher levels of female political representation have more laws promoting equality and greater participation of women in the workforce.

“In many parts of the world, though, women’s limited political influence perpetuates a vicious circle of limited legal rights and economic power.”

Women, Business and the Law notes that, while 98 economies mandate equal remuneration for work of equal value, only 35 have pay transparency or enforcement measures that can make equal pay for women a reality.

It adds: “The challenge for growth (and equality) is turning that vicious circle into a virtuous one in which women participate at a higher rate in the political process, gain greater representation – particularly at ministerial and leadership levels – and promote policies that empower women.”

Ana Kreacic

What needs to change?

Real progress requires significant changes in culture and political institutions.

Silvana Koch-Mehrin, President and Founder of WPL, notes that a hostile environment is driving many women out of politics.

A WPL international study of women parliamentarians found that more than 85% experienced psychological violence such as sexist remarks or images and many received threats of death, rape or abduction.

Ana Kreacic, Chief Operating Officer of the Oliver Wyman Forum says that, by focusing on the economic growth opportunity as a central priority, political institutions could learn some lessons from the private sector.

She adds: “Companies aren’t perfect, but most leading ones are asking themselves if they have the right policies and environment to attract and retain the talent they need – both female and male – and are tracking their performance on hiring.”

She says there needs to be strong enforcement mechanisms, a system for tracking gender-related pay disparities,and the availability of healthcare services for women who survive violence.

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