Leading to Beijing +20: Equal Opportunities for Women Part 2
Undertaking reforms that give women equal access to resources that enhance their economic potential and activity is vital to building more prosperous and stable households, communities, and nations. Despite the proven benefits of including women in the formal economy however, much of the developing world has been slow to adopt legislation that would ensure women equal economic footing with men. Indeed, even in the United States women tend to earn significantly less for the same work carried out by men.
And due to persisting patriarchal attitudes and cultural traditions in some areas of the world, many women have substantially less access to economic resources that would otherwise enable them to contribute to the formal economy and consequently empower them within their households. In countries that are already mired in poverty, providing education and greater economic autonomy and employment opportunities for women has the potential to offset factors that even exacerbate poverty, such as high fertility rates and low household income.
Control over land, ownership of property, access to financial services, and inheritance claims are rights that are often not extended to women in many parts of the world. Introducing legislation that guarantees women equal economic, educational and leadership opportunities would greatly improve conditions, not only for women, but also for their families, the localities in which they live, and the nation. According to the United Nations, “when more women work, economies grow.” In fact, the GDP of the United States would be 9% higher if women’s paid employment rates were at the same level as their male counterparts’; the euro zone’s would be raised by 13 % and Japan’s GDP would grow by 16 %.
There is certainly a great incentive among men and women to bolster economic opportunities for women in the West as well as in the developing world. Nevertheless, progress has been slow and, at times, the laws enacted to achieve that progress have been ineffective. Deeply entrenched societal views that devalue the worth and contributions of women stagnates advancements towards economic equality between men and women. There is a need for creative reforms that not only address the symptoms of gender discrimination, but also treat the illness itself.