Economic Empowerment of Women

Published: November 2013

This document presents a two page overview of UN Women's work on economic empowerment: "Many international commitments support women's economic empowerment, including the Beijing Platform for Action, [CEDAW] and a series of [ILO] conventions on gender equality. UN Women supports women's economic empowerment in line with these, and with the growing body of evidence that shows that gender equality significantly contributes to advancing economies and sustainable development. Working with a variety of partners, our programmes promote women's ability to secure decent jobs, accumulate assets, and influence institutions and public policies determining growth and development. One critical area of focus involves advocacy to measure women's unpaid care work, and to take actions so women and men can more readily combine it with paid employment."

Key Findings

  • When more women work, economies grow. If women's paid employment rates were raised to the same level as men's, the USA gross domestic product would be an estimated 9 per cent higher, the Euro zone's would climb by 13 per cent and Japan's would be boosted by 16 per cent. In 15 major developing economies, per capita income would rise by 14 per cent by 2020, 20 per cent by 2030.
  • An analysis of Fortune 500 companies found that those with the greatest representation of women in management positions delivered a total return to shareholders that was 34 per cent higher than for companies with the lowest representation.
  • Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, changes spending in ways that benefit children. Women in the world of work:
  • In the majority of countries, women's wages represent between 70 and 90 per cent of men's, with even lower ratios in some Asian and Latin American countries.
  • As of 2011, 50.5 per cent of the world's working women were in vulnerable employment, often unprotected by labour legislation, compared to 48.2 per cent for men. Women were far more likely than men to be in vulnerable employment in North Africa (55 versus 32 per cent), the Middle East (42 versus 27 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa (nearly 85 versus 70 per cent).
  • If women had the same access as men to productive assets, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an estimated average of up to 4 per cent. This could reduce the number of undernourished people in those countries by as much as 17 per cent, translating to up to 150 million fewer hungry people.

Populations Rural, Women

Complementary Outcomes Women's Rights

Industries Agriculture/Food Processing, Service/Hospitality

Publishers UN Women

Geographic Focus Africa (Eastern) / Tanzania, Africa (Northern) / Morocco, Asia (Southern) / Nepal

Funded by UN Women