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7 Ways Women Could Change the World ... If We Let Them

As people around the world recognize International Women’s Day, few would claim that women have achieved true parity.



As people around the world recognize International Women’s Day, few would claim that women have achieved true parity. There’s still a long way to go before women see anything near equity, even as countries have made  slow but steady progress on closing the gender gap in education, economics, health, and politics.

But the facts are there: If we can help women get on equal footing with men, they will help us all, globally, to succeed. Here are just some of the ways women could change the world, if we let them:

If they had equal employment, women could raise every country’s GDP.

If women’s participation in the workforce increased, it would transform the global economy for the better. One study projects that if the female employment in the U.S. matched the male rates, our overall GDP would  rise by 5 percent. In Japan, the GDP would jump by 9 percent. Addressing the education gap would be a good way to start to achieve these figures. The Council on Foreign Relations  estimates that each country’s GDP grows by  3 percent for every additional 10 percent of girls going to school.

If companies put women in leadership positions, they’d both benefit.

A persistent global gap in economic participation and opportunity means that not enough women are making it into the workforce — and even when they are, they’re not ascending to top positions. In fact, 36 percent of U.S. companies currently don’t have a single woman on their boards of directors. A study of our neighbors to the north found that Canadian women hold only  5.7 percent of CEO positions at top companies there. In Latin America, there are a total of only  nine female CEOs in the top 500 companies. But evidence suggests that gender-mixed leadership actually translates into better profits. According to one study that compared similarly-sized businesses, those with women on their boards outperformed those with all-male boards by  26 percent.

If women were more politically involved, we’d have better policies for our poor.

When women aren’t outnumbered by men, they tend to speak up more for the needs of the vulnerable and advocate for the social safety net. In one experiment that asked groups to set the threshold for public assistance, the groups with fewer women decided on a minimum income of about $21,600 per year for a family of four — close to the United States’ current federal poverty level — but in the groups where women made up 60 to 80 percent of the members, women  elevated the safety net to as much as $31,000. In female-dominated groups, women spoke up as much as men, encountered less hostility from their peers, and ultimately influenced their male counterparts to make more generous economic policy choices.

If women were paid more, families would thrive.

The average pay disparity between a man and a woman in the United States is .77 cents on the dollar. That means an American woman could feed  a family of four for 37 years with the earnings she loses thanks to pay disparity. If that sounds bad, compare it to the pay gap in Korea, the largest in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. There, women’s paychecks were  39 percent lower than their male peers. Women are increasingly becoming the  primary or co-breadwinners for their families, and as they do their pay becomes more vital to the wellbeing of their families. It’s important for the nation, too; economists believe that closing the gender pay gap would be the equivalent of  “huge” economic stimulus, and that, in the United States alone, it could grow the economy by three or four percentage points.

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