Closing Gender Gaps Makes Sense Ethically and Economically.

Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

A World Bank study released earlier this month concludes that a significant gender gap still exists in workplaces in many countries, resulting in lower pay and fewer job opportunities for women. The new report, Women, Business and the Law 2024, finds that because of inadequate legal protections against sexual abuse, among other harms, the gender gap is even wider than previously reported. The report strengthens the case for seriously addressing the gender gap both as an ethical priority and because societies benefit economically when women have greater job opportunities.

The World Bank’s study, its 10th annual report on this topic, is the first to examine the economic impact of legal gaps pertaining to personal safety and the costs of childcare. It is based on contributions by more than 2,400 lawyers, judges, academics, civil society representatives and public officials in 190 countries. The report finds that in many countries the threat of personal violence and lack of related legal protections prevents many women from going to work. It also documents deficiencies in laws relating to childcare costs, which often make it prohibitive for women to enter the workforce. Overall, the World Bank concluded that with respect to laws on the books, “women enjoy roughly 64% of the rights of men.”

Even when a country has laws designed to protect women, all too often they are not enforced. The World Bank identified 95 countries that have enacted laws guaranteeing equal pay. But only 35 of those countries have adopted measures to ensure that the laws are being applied. Globally, women earn just 77 cents of each dollar earned by men with comparable jobs. Separately, Oxfam projects that “at the current rate of progress, it will take 170 years to close the gap.”

Read the full Forbes article.
Michael Posner is the Jerome Kohlberg Professor of Ethics and Finance, Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.